This offseason in particular has been received mixed reviews from the fans for obvious reasons. The Sabres had many problems on the ice and it showed in their 1st round elimination in the playoffs. Is it realistic to question all of these moves and assess whether they will still be a playoff team at the end of the season? Or will they simply fade out like they had the two previous years?
The Draft: I will not go into detail about the draft, simply because it is a crapshoot to say who will make the roster in the next few years. For example, Miller was a later pick, and look at him now. Their first round selection was Mark Pysyk. Now, he is not a stand out like Tyler Myers was. But he is consistent but won't wow anyone with his play. But he gets his job done. I was not expecting the Sabres to take two defenseman with their first picks. All in all, they took a run on defenseman with their two picks, then went for the centers, and grabbed another defenseman. They then filled out their wings with their later picks.
Free agency: Shortly before free agency we re-signed Mike Grier. I myself love Griers physicality and work ethic. He is a veteran player who has playoff experience and is somewhat of a role model for the young players on the team. He is a player who will always give 100% and was one of the reasons the Sabres got back into the playoffs. My Grade B+
Free agency started off with the losses of Henrik Tallindar and Toni Lydman. I was shooting for the Sabres to re-sign Tallindar because it would have been good for the 1st line consistency. Yet, in the back of my mind I remembered how before being paired up with Tyler Myers, Tallindar's two previous seasons were nothing to brag about. From what I heard, Tallindar did not really want to stay in Buffalo. He signed with the Devils with a 4 year 13.5 million dollar deal. My Grade D-
Toni Lydman was not someone I was a big fan of. He had nearly zero offensive production, and was always viewed as a physical defenseman. However, last season he seemed to lose his physical edge. He has never been one with great puck control and would even carelessly turn over the puck trying to make something happen. I was truly hoping the Sabres would not resign him, and my wish came true when he signed with the Ducks for 3 years totaling 9 million.My Grade B+
The Sabres then had to fix their blueline and fast. They signed Jordan Leopold for 3 million a season for 9 million. The Sabres needed more scoring from their blueline and that is what Leopold brings. He is a puck moving defenseman who had a career high 11 goals and 15 assists. That may not be off the charts, but when you consider Lydman and Tallindar had only 8 goals combined, it comes in handy. My Grade B+
The Sabres then looked towards their offense and decided they needed to get more grit. With that came the signing of Rob Niedermayer. Last year for the Devils he did not bring much offensive production (10 goals, 12 assists) but brought valuable leadership. He will probably be the 3rd or 4th line center, but will bring the toughness to a team that lacked it in the playoffs. He signed a 1 year, 1.15 millions dollar contract. My Grade A
Sabres fans seemed to scratch their head at the move to re-sign Patrick Lalime for the backup goalie position. Last season he played far better than people thought he did. Though he went 4-8, he had a .907 save percentage. That shows the play of the team around him rather then his play. This move, though a good one on its own, it was heavily favored by Ryan Miller, who is good friends with Lalime, and often asks him for advice. It supposedly was Miller who asked them to re-sign him. The Sabres signed him to a 1 year $600,000 deal. My Grade B
Cody McCormick was also re-signed by the Sabres. He is a physical center that was brought up in the first round of the playoffs for his physical presence. He will most likely spend this season in the AHL again, but I would not doubt it if you see him brought up if the injury bug hits. My Grade C
The most controversial move of the offseason according to Sabres fans was the buyout of Tim Kennedy after his arbitration award. Kennedy had 10 goals 16 assists last season, but lacks the physicality that the Sabres are trying to instill on their players. Kennedy was awarded a 1 million dollar contract in arbitration, and was then placed on waivers by the Sabres. The Sabres did not want to play him 1 million dollars on a one-way contract to a player who most likely would not make the roster, and play in the AHL this season.
At first, as someone who is from Buffalo, this move hit me personally. A kid from Buffalo, ending up on the roster and playing for his hometown team, and then getting boughtout over 1 millions dollars. However, instead of questioning this move, fans should praise it. It was a way of making the team better. Kennedy, while young, is 24, and does not have much upside. He only had 10 goals last season, and would likely not have made the roster because of players like Ennis and Gerbe, who have both shown to be better. Kennedy also disappeared for a large number of games. If he wasn't from Buffalo, no one would care that he was bought out. And if fans care over this, then they really do not want the cup in Buffalo. My Grade A
Following the buyout of Tim Kennedy, the Sabres signed defenseman Shaon Morrisonn. Last season for the Capitals he was a tough, physical stay at home defenseman, who was a leader in hits. With this you can expect a phyical defense this season, that won't get pushed around by other physical teams. He signed 2 years 4 million. My Grade B-
RFA: The Sabres signed Mike Weber, and Marc-Andre Gragnani to one year deals, as they are Restricted Free Agents. I was expecting Mike Weber to make the roster this season, but with the signing of Morrisonn, I expect him to play another season in the AHL. My Grade A
In the end, I give the Sabres a B. I like what they did on most fronts. They came out with a much more physical team that won't get pushed around. They improved their offense by buying out Tim Kennedy. I expect Tyler Ennis to have a great season this year, he has the speed and skills to be a great playmaker in this league. I also believe they increased their blueline depth with their signings. I have mixed feelings on Shaon Morrisonn, I like him as a player, but I do not like it because it mean that Mike Weber spends another season in the AHL. Nonetheless, it was a successful offseason for the Sabres.