Buffalo Sabres: Some Answers to a Few Lingering Offseason Questions
The Buffalo Sabres' offseason has been busy and quiet at the same time.
Essentially there haven't been a lot of big moves from the Sabres this offseason, but there have been plenty of questions that have arisen from the Sabres' actions—or inaction.
So here we'll provide a few answers to the questions lingering in many Sabres fans' minds.
1. Why Wasn't Ville Leino Bought Out?
When the NHL and NHLPA announced that compliance buyouts were going to be an option for teams this offseason, many in the media looked immediately to Ville Leino and his six-year, $27 million contract as a likely candidate.
Leino's contract is a blemish that many in the media won't let Sabres general manager Darcy Regier and owner Terry Pegula forget, and probably unfairly so.
But that's another conversation. Today the question is why Leino, despite being a prime candidate for a buyout, was not bought out.
You can save the "Darcy sucks" arguments here, folks. Leino was not bought out simply because he couldn't be. Leino has had a nagging hip injury since the start of the season and he is not healthy enough per the collective bargaining agreement to qualify for a buyout.
So, while he may still be bought out next year provided he's healthy, keeping Leino around was not completely the choice of Regier and Pegula, assuming he was to be bought out if healthy.
2. Why Did Nathan Gerbe Get Bought Out?
The Nathan Gerbe buyout did not go over well in some circles of Buffalo fans.
However, in reality, it was likely the best move for both sides.
To put it simply, the Sabres did not see Gerbe as a long-term guy. He's struggled since his 16 goal, 31 point season in 2009-10 and has not seen much time beyond the third line.
Easily one of the Sabres' better motor players, Gerbe played with tons of heart and stuck his nose in places it should not have been a lot. But it seemed like he really was not been able to bounce back from his neck injury he sustained last season, and the Sabres, with so many prospects in the pipeline, did not feel he warranted a spot anymore.
Gerbe will catch on with another team in a bottom six role, but it seems he's much more likely to go the Tim Kennedy route than anything else.
3. Why Haven't Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek Been Traded?
The feeling through the end of the season was that both Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek would be finding new homes by the draft and the Sabres would be swimming in the prospects and picks they netted.
Well, it seems that the Sabres still have two of their best players because of their wish to swim in the prospects they'll net.
In other words, the price is way too high.
There have been definite inquiries for both players, but it seems that until the price comes down, which is likely to happen in the next few weeks, the two players will remain in Buffalo.
It seems logical to think at least one of the two will remain with the team, and it would not even be surprising to see them sign an extension at this point. But if a team gets desperate enough—see the New Jersey Devils or St. Louis Blues—you may see a deal sooner rather than later.
4. Why Didn't They Trade Up in the Draft?
In a move that surprised many, the Sabres decided to keep both the eighth and 16th picks in last month's draft.
The Sabres certainly were talking about trading up, and the best opportunity seemed to rest with the Carolina Hurricanes, who held the fifth pick. However, despite the speculation, the Sabres decided to stay put and draft defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen with the eighth pick.
The Sabres stuck with the blue line at pick no. 16 as well, drafting another big and skilled defenseman in Nikita Zadorov.
So why didn't the Sabres move up?
First, much like the Miller and Vanek saga, the price was prohibitive. Many felt the price to move up for the Sabres would have included Tyler Myers, something that was never going to happen.
Second, the Sabres apparently did not value Sean Monahan or Elias Lindholm, the two forwards many had the Sabres taking whether they traded up or stayed put at eight, as much as everyone thought they did. Lindholm may not play in the NHL this year, and Monahan has a chance on a depleted Calgary Flames roster, but still might need a year in the OHL.
5. Why Haven't Cody Hodgson and the Other RFAs Been Signed?
With the free agent market at a standstill, the attention has turned to teams with unsigned restricted free agents.
There are some big ones around the league, and the Sabres have a few of their own.
Cody Hodgson remains unsigned, and vulnerable to an offer sheet, along with Corey Tropp, Matt Hackett, Luke Adam and Brian Flynn.
Hodgson will be the most expensive by far, with Tropp and Adam likely signing two to three year contracts somewhere in the $1 million range, and Hackett signing for something around $650,000 annually.
Hodgson is easily going to make Tyler Ennis money–about $2.8 million per season–and could be in line to make more. Some comparable contracts for talented centers coming off of their entry level deals include Derick Brassard (four years, $12.8 million) and Joe Pavelski (four years, $16 million). But another two comparables to keep in mind, despite Hodgson not quite reaching their level of play just yet, are Jordan Eberle (six years, $36 million) and Tyler Seguin (six years, $34.5 million). (All salaries via CapGeek)
While Hodgson will likely not get much more than $4 million per year, it is possible he'll keep the length of his deal shorter in hope that he's due for the Eberle/Seguin payday next.
6. Why Haven't They Named a Captain Yet?
There could be two good answers to this question.
First, new head coach Ron Rolston may be waiting for training camp to get a good, long look at his locker room in order to make that determination. It will be a very young room, so Rolston may be looking to see which veterans take guys under their wing and such.
The second plausible answer is that the team is waiting to see what happens with Vanek. Vanek was a worthy pick when Jason Pominville was tabbed in 2011-12 as the captain, and would still be just as worthy this season. If he sticks around, he may have the edge to wear the "C" on his sweater.
Steve Ott is probably the other worthy choice. Ott is an amazing team player and would be a great selection. It also may help in re-signing him, which never hurts.
7. Who Will Make the Team in October?
With the roster being reshaped, there is a distinct possibility the team will be one of the youngest in the league.
Guys like Joel Armia, Corey Tropp, Zemgus Girgensons, Johan Larsson and Brian Flynn will probably see a good chunk of ice time this season for the forward unit.
Ristolainen will have every chance to make the team in October, with Chad Ruhwedel and Brayden McNabb pushing for a top six spot as well.
Mikhail Grigorenko is assured his spot this year, and Mark Pysyk all but cemented his place, likely as a top-four blue liner, with his play at the end of the year.
Beyond that though, training camp will be extremely interesting for those interested in the position battles sure to occur.