In an offseason filled with uncertainty for the Buffalo Sabres, we know one thing for sure – there is some much-needed roster manipulation in order. The next general manager has his work cut out for him, thanks to some Darcy Regier and Tim Murray contracts that have since gone south.
Buffalo essentially needs to trim the fat off their roster — financial fat that continues to clog up the remaining cap space allotted to the team.
Finishing the season with a little over a million dollars in cap space is not too worrisome, especially with over $20 million coming off of the books soon.
Before you let yourself relax, you must be reminded that Marcus Foligno, Zemgus Girgensons, Johan Larsson and Robin Lehner are restricted free agents this offseason. Couple that with Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart next season – you can quickly tell why some cap saving beginning this offseason is important.
There are a few candidates that are prime for the taking, especially with the expansion draft just over a month away.
The curious case of Tyler Ennis can be tied back to a nasty concussion he suffered against the Washington Capitals in the 2015-16 season.
Prior to the hit, Ennis had been hitting his stride with Ted Nolan’s systemless hockey style playing on the top line.
He had 41 goals in two seasons, which included back-to-back seasons of 20-plus goals
Ennis’ career certainly changed the night he took that aforementioned hard Alexander Ovechkin hit on Dec. 30, 2015.
His concussion forced him to miss the remainder of the 2015-16 season.
Ennis came into the 2016-17 season as healthy but was ailed again, this time with a groin injury. Surgery was required to repair the issue and he ended up only playing 51 of a potential 82 games this past season.
Since he signed a five-year, $23 million contract extension, Ennis has recorded 24 points (eight goals, 16 assists) in 74 games over two seasons. For the $4.6 million cap hit he has until the end of the 2018-19 season, it might not be a bad idea to see if a change of scenery will do his career some good.
Matt Moulson was supposed to be the guy that helped lead this team to glory. At least for a minute there, after acquiring him for Thomas Vanek back on Oct. 27, 2015.
Moulson came into town and immediately became a fan favorite. In his first 44 games with the franchise, he tallied 29 points in 44 games (eleven goals, 18 assists) and fans were ready to anoint him the guy.
Next season rolled around, Moulson ended up being dealt to Minnesota but there seemed to be an agreement that was one of the worst kept secrets in hockey. Moulson got traded to Minnesota but came back to Buffalo and gets his big pay day.
Fantastic idea with poor execution.
He signed a five-year, $25 million deal on the first day of free agency in 2014. When the hockey season began, it was clear that the game was starting to pass Moulson by.
His speed had diminished enough that you could clearly tell Moulson was a step behind most players. This did not bode well with the young speed Buffalo had begun to hoard.
Last season was a bit of a resurgence for him, with 32 points (14 goals, 18 assists) in 81 games, but those numbers are hard to justify a $5 million cap hit for the next two seasons.
This man holds a special place in many people’s hearts. Whether it be a blessing or a curse for the Buffalo Sabres, don’t you ever forget that Gorges once turned down a trade to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
When he ended up in Buffalo, this made him a cult hero immediately.
Unfortunately, the cult hero status did not follow him onto the ice.
He found himself being forced into a role that had long since passed him by, with being placed on the top pairing with players like Rasmus Ristolainen.
Like Moulson, we’ve seen Gorges slow down to what feels like a snail’s pace in the current game. His lack of explosiveness coupled with his declining defensive play being stretched just a little too thin by coaching has added up to a bad time in Buffalo.
With only one year remaining on his deal, he finds himself as one of CapFriendly’s top buyout candidates. This seems like an easy out for management as they look to quickly turn the tide toward building a playoff contender.