The NHL offseason is finally winding down and teams are gearing up for training camp, which will take place less than a month from now.
With that said, some teams are through with making moves this summer, while others—like the Sabres—are still trying to get deals done.
Last week, the Sabres added veteran winger, Mike Grier—a surprising addition, but likely the last significant move the team will make this offseason.
But GM Darcy Regier still has one more noteworthy task at hand, and that is to reach a deal with restricted free agent, Drew Stafford.
Earlier this summer, Regier extended qualifying offers to three of the Sabres' five restricted free agents, Pat Kaleta, Andrej Sekera and Stafford.
Kaleta signed a one-year deal, while Sekera was inked for two years at a little over $1 million per year. Clarke MacArthur, another restricted free agent, signed a deal similar to Sekera's.
Both parties (Stafford and the Sabres) are likely working feverishly behind closed doors to get a deal done. But when talks extend all the way until mid-August, there becomes a growing concern that both sides may be far apart.
At 23, Stafford still has plenty of time to mature into the player the Sabres hoped he would become after the organization drafted him 13th overall in 2004.
The 6'1", 200-pound winger has a particular size and scoring touch that doesn't exactly run too deep in Buffalo. So yeah, he is definitely an asset worth keeping—at least in my mind.
In 2006-07, he appeared in 41 games, scoring 13 goals and 14 assists—a promising start for the youngster. In 2007-08, what was supposed to be his first-full season in the league, he managed only 38 points (16G, 22A) in 64 games.
Last year, more of the same from Stafford; he struggled early on in the season before heating up after the All-Star break, then leveling out by the end of the year. Though he finished with his first 20-goal season, his overall numbers were not at all that spectacular (20G, 25A).
However, I am a firm believer that Staff has the ability to be a consistent top-six forward, and 30-goal scorer in the NHL for years to come.
Not to say Sabres' management doesn't feel the same way, but they may be exploring different options at this point. That includes possibly trading away his rights for another right winger and/or draft picks.
That is, unless of course the two agree to terms, or if Stafford is willing to sit out the entire 2009-10 campaign.
I'm sure Sabres' fans can quickly recall the Michael Peca ordeal that occurred almost a decade ago.
Both are pretty extreme outcomes, but still possible nonetheless.
Regardless of what happens, Stafford is deserving of a contract in the range of $2 million to $3 million a year.
Kevin Sylvester, Sabres' pre and post game show host, said in a blog last week that he expects the winger to re-sign with the Sabres soon. Take that for what it's worth.
The Sabres begin training camp Sept. 13 in Buffalo.
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