The Fury of Free Agency
Some will come, and some will go.
The age of free agency and arbitration is upon us; that inevitable time where any number of deals can be made (or not made, for that matter.)
The Sabres enter this year's market with a total of 20 free agents on their hands (nine unrestricted, 11 restricted.) That number includes Marek Zagrapan, who has signed with a Russian club.
So, let's take a look at some of the most prominent free agents the Sabres have to offer the market.
Unrestricted free agent Max Afinogenov is a tough one.
A lot of Buffalo fans seem to love him—his speed is undeniably impressive, but he has yet to prove himself and have one stable season.
It's unfortunate, because he could really be a strong player in a few years, but Afinogenov has probably played his last game as a Sabre.
Mathieu Darche has yet to play a game with the Sabres, and spent all of last season playing in the AHL with the Portland Pirates. He's a tough player with a lot of grit (as was evident when the Pirates hosted the Albany River Rats at the Sabres' home arena last season), and could really be useful to the organization.
Will they sign him?
Matt Ellis, Colin Murphy, and Colton Fretter (all unrestricted) spent last season with the Pirates as well, with Ellis being the only one of the three to see any time in the NHL. Murphy and Fretter are both still young, and could develop into good players with some experience.
Dominic Moore, a recent acquisition, will also become an unrestricted free agent on Jul. 1. Last season, Moore had 13 goals and 32 assists in 81 games (not all with the Sabres, of course), and, if the Sabres sign him, they won't regret it.
He's a power forward.
Rounding out the Sabres' unrestricted free agent list are Andrew Peters, Teppo Numminen, and Jaroslav Spacek. Peters brings grit and size to an otherwise average-sized team, and Sabres fans seem to have mixed opinions about his contract.
But, I ask you, Sabres fans, to imagine a team without Peters. While there are other "tough guys" on the team, Petey is undoubtedly the headmaster.
Last year at this time, we weren't even sure if Numminen would be back for another season. After his heart problems, he managed to have a strong comeback.
And now, we are again not certain.
He's a great player and a great guy, and, at 40-years-old, can provide the veteran experience a lot of other Sabres don't have. He's the father figure on the team, and I hope that he continues to be a part of the organization even if the Sabres don't sign him.
Spacek is a must-sign.
He led all Sabres defensemen in multi-point games last season, and he's a fun guy to have around.
Sign him, and let Teppo have a management position.
So, that's the unrestricted section.
As was previously stated, Marek Zagrapan has signed with Russia. He's gone, and it's unlikely he'll come back as he felt the Sabres weren't giving him an opportunity.
Of the restricted free agents, there are several must-signs, namely Andrej Sekera, Patrick Kaleta, and Drew Stafford.
These three youngsters have proved themselves and become a key part of the team, rising up from the ranks of the NHL in a short period of time.
Kaleta brings the grit (but also knows how to score, and would have had a better season if not for all the injuries), Sekera is a strong young defenseman (and the pairing between him & Spacek is unstoppable), and Stafford is a power forward who's only going to get better.
Next comes Clarke MacArthur. He's good, but if the Sabres have to sacrifice someone, it has to be him.
He has never been particularly great, and, although it'd be sad to see him go, he might be able to have a stronger career elsewhere.
Rounding out the restricted free agents are all players who spent the season in Portland: forwards Jimmy Bonneau, Mark Mancari, and Dylan Hunter; defensemen Michael Funk and Mike Card, and goaltender Adam Dennis.
Jimmy Bonneau proved himself—in my eyes—at last season's Portland/Albany game at HSBC Arena. He fought and continued to battle for his team and teammates even while in the penalty box.
He's not afraid to stick his neck in other people's business, and he's worth signing.
Mark Mancari is a great scorer and a one-time AHL All-Star, but where his true skill lies is on the power play. He may need to spend a bit more time in the AHL due to space constraints on the Sabres team, but he's also worth signing for future considerations.
Dylan Hunter and Adam Dennis are both strong players. Dennis has been called up to the Sabres several times, and it'll be interesting to see what the Sabres do with these two.
Lastly come the two Mikes: Funk and Card.
Two defensemen and great players who the Sabres should sign without issue. When the veteran D leave, these two will come in and take over.
So now, we wait.
What, oh what, will Mr. Regier do this year?
We'll find out soon enough.
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