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Clever contract manuvering gives Murray flexibility

July 18, 2014

The Buffalo Sabres’ dismal 52-point campaign in 2013-14 was punctuated by a historically bad offensive output that put the team nearly 40 goals behind the next closest club and well below the 200-goal plateau.

It was a campaign that brought about the long overdue firing of Darcy Regier, the introduction of Tim Murray along with the groundwork to select Sam Reinhart second overall at this year’s entry draft. The selection of Reinhart set off a multitude of signings and roster moves that has the Sabres in a much different position than they were entering last year’s training camp.

After setting the table during his first trade deadline as a general manager, Murray went about a wide-ranging reshaping of the roster via buyouts and free agency. His moves will certainly make the Sabres a more entertaining and competitive club heading into next season. While the team may remain a bad bet as they work towards a shot at Connor McDavid, the new acquisitions ought to provide those looking at NHL betting lines a little more pause when considering a contest featuring the Sabres.William hill’s betting accumulator is a terrific site to look at if you’re considering a bet on an NHL game.

Locking up Tyler Ennis for five years gives Murray and the Sabres just five players with deals that stretch beyond four years while every other player under contract is locked up for three or fewer years. Two of those long contracts belong to Tyler Myers and Cody Hodgson, two players inked by the previous regime; meaning Murray actually inherited a pair of the few contracts that could be considered challenging to move.

Murray has repeatedly said that he doesn’t want this to be a lengthy rebuild and his actions this summer certainly indicate that it won’t be. While Ennis is under contract for five years, his $4.6 million cap hit is very manageable (especially should the cap continue to rise) and will be easy to move should the club reach a point that Ennis isn’t serving as a vital cog. Only having four other players whose contracts extend to the 2017-18 season or beyond means that Murray will have plenty of flexibility in the coming seasons to maneuver under the cap. Read more…

Connecting the dots between Hofbrauhaus and Canalside

July 17, 2014

It’s been a long time since this much news has come out about Canalside in such a short period of time. Aside from one small announcement that ECHDC will be waiting to develop the north portion of the Aud Block it’s been all great news for the epicenter of Buffalo’s waterfront development.

The building on the right will be bringing a beer garden to Canalside within the next year and it might just be the home of the previously announced Hofbrauhaus.

Today’s news included a report that Pizza Plant will be occupying the ground floor retail space in One Canalside and adding another food and entertainment option to the area around Canalside and the arena. The best part of that news is that there’s potential to see Pizza Plant open and operating right around the same time that HARBORCENTER and (716) open their doors.

Another report indicated that Pizza Plant and (716) will have company along Washington Street as Benderson has begun to work on developing a yet to be unnamed beer garden for the South Block. The Buffalo News report says the beer garden is at least a year away, which would probably slate it for a late-2015 opening. Read more…

Finding a home for concerts along Buffalo’s Outer and Inner Harbor

July 17, 2014

If there’s one summer entertainment option that Buffalo lacks as compared to similar cities it’s an actual concert venue. The stage setup at Canalside makes for a great setting for concerts, but the temporary status makes for an underwhelming venue. The same can be said for the Outer Harbor stage, which has drawn big names but lacks amenities.

At some point in the near future there should be active construction on a number of the parcels at Canalside. When that process begins it will spell the end for the temporary stage and the current set up along the Wharf. Additionally, with the wheels in motion to formulate a master plan for the Outer Harbor State Park, there could be a possibility that the Outer Harbor Concert series needs to relocate.

One way or another, both current sites are potentially in line to be nudged out of their locations due to future development plans. There’s much more flexibility with the Outer Harbor given that there’s no clear direction on how the park land will be developed and the massive amount of space can and should allow for a proper amphitheater to be included in the plans.

Look no further than the concert space at Millennium Park in Chicago for a guideline on this project. While Buffalo’s version doesn’t need to be nearly as big, something that can serve as a real venue as part of the Outer Harbor project should be part of the plans.

Conceivably a slightly larger venue on the Outer Harbor and a scaled down version near the Inner Harbor could co-exist. The two entities work in unison now so it shouldn’t be a stretch to think that a big venue for large acts can settle on the Outer Harbor while a smaller, but still permanent, stage could be built near Canalside. If you’re looking for a comparable to what I envision for the Canalside venue, check out Nautica Pavilion or Stage AE.

That particular point (using those two venues as an example for Canalside) is a point that I’ve harped on ad nauseum, so I don’t wish to linger on finding a parcel within Canalside’s footprint for such a project. One idea that recently came to me was using the land along the Outer Harbor that’s just across the river from Canalside. Use of the land would be nearly entirely reliant upon the completion of the proposed Outer Harbor Bridge, but it would also solve the problem of the future space problem across the way. Read more…

Double Minors: 2014 Sabres Development Camp scrimmage

July 16, 2014

The Sabres annual prospect’s scrimmage came and went last night with a sloppy 5-1 win for Team White.

In a slight change from recent years the scrimmage was held early in the week and the results on the ice reflected that change. With only two ice sessions as a group, the majority of the prospects struggled to find chemistry in a game setting. While the players with more developmental and professional experience stood out for obvious reasons, there were very few true standouts simply based on the disjointed nature of the game that took over at times.

There were some obvious bright spots as one might expect in a six-goal game although a majority of the scoring happened to be done by undrafted camp invites while the organization’s prospects contributed in other ways.

Two of the most obvious standouts were Nikita Zadorov and Rasmus Ristolainen. The two towering defensemen were split between the two squads but they were certainly noticeable when they were on the ice. Zadorov was very active joining the rush and even chipped in with an assist as his booming slapshot caught the end boards and wound up on Jerome Leduc’s tape for a tap in to open the scoring.

Zadorov’s game appeared measured to me as he was picking his spots and recovering well when he joined the rush. He might need to practice a bit more discretion at times but he continued to display the active style that has made him such an attractive prospect. Furthermore, his physical game wasn’t lacking throughout the scrimmage.

Ristolainen was as steady as you might expect a player who split the year between Buffalo and Rochester despite being fresh out of the draft. Since both teams had only five defensemen on their roster the minutes piled up for each and Ristolainen was certainly a beneficiary of that. I think he is a safe bet to pencil into a top-six spot entering training camp as his second professional season is set to begin.

The biggest star of last night’s scrimmage didn’t even see the ice after the halfway mark of the second period. Linus Ullmark was far and away the most impressive goaltender of the four who dressed last night. Read more…

Who I’m watching at Sabres development camp

July 15, 2014

Development Camp is an interesting event for a few reasons. It offers onlookers their first look at many of a team’s recent draft picks mixed in with other organizational prospects. With so many players scattered across the world, it’s often the only time that all of these players are in the same location at once.

The camp also presents an interesting mix of players. Each year there’s at least one or two professionals who have seen considerable time in the NHL but their entry level contract keeps them in the group of players expected at camp. The camp is also comprised of junior and collegiate-aged players, for the most part. So it can be hard to gauge where some players are developmentally since they aren’t playing against men. Some reactions to the week’s highlights may need to be tempered due to that last point.

Even if it’s just a mid-July gathering of kids who might be as far away as four years from an NHL game, it’s still representative of the direction the organization is heading. Seven first round picks are in attendance and eight more second round selections from the last three drafts. That group includes players like Zemgus Girgensons and Rasmus Ristolainen, a pair of players who are likely penciled into the Sabres’ opening night roster at this point. While they’ll certainly stand out due to where they are on the development curve, my interest in them is much lower than other individuals and groups.

Today’s scrimmage is obviously the best opportunity for fans and coaches to see the players in a game setting, but Friday’s three-on-three tournament will likely yield some interesting results as well. The two game settings are mixed in with a week’s worth of practice that will see the players running through a host of drills. It’s an event that allows the organization to show their prospects how they’ll be expected to operate as professionals while also getting them on the ice for a week. Given the glut of talent that is present at camp, I’ll be keeping my eye on a handful of players this evening and Friday morning (should I make it downtown): Read more…

ECHDC can maintain positive momentum with some smaller projects

July 14, 2014

Since the first announcement and rendering of Canalside was released in what seems like 2004, it’s been something I’ve been passionate about following. I’ve experienced the waterfront in Baltimore, Vancouver, Pittsburgh and many other cities and I’m eagerly awaiting the day that Buffalo’s impressive project is finally complete for the world to enjoy.

Getting to that complete point has taken a bit longer than expected. Much longer than expected, actually. A myriad of issues and hurdles that include, but aren’t limited to obstructionists, contractor issues, hold ups in Albany, obstructionists again and even poor leadership at times. It would appear that the ECDHC has finally gotten things on the right track although we’re still waiting to see the train pick up some speed.

With the first Whipple Truss bridge in on the Aud Block site and the accompanying Swartz bridges should be in late in the fall. Additionally, reports indicate that the bids for the trio of buildings on the southern portion of the Aud Block will be out this summer and those buildings will be ready to open in mid-2016.

All of that is tremendous news. While the timeline on the first three buildings on the Aud Block – and really in all of proper Canalside parcels – is lamentable, real progress will be seen in the coming months. When you consider how stagnant any real development has been at Canalside, this is a terrific sign.

However, Dee also managed to slip in a statement that development on the North Aud Block will be taking a downshift for the time being. From The Buffalo News:

“Two buildings and a parking ramp planned for the north block are now on hold, Dee said, while they wait to see how the various developments emerge.

Restaurateurs and retailers have expressed interest, Dee said, but they’re waiting for the buildings to go up before making a commitment. He said he has directed them to HarborCenter and to Benderson Development, whose timetables are ahead of the canal site, because it will only add to the synergy of the whole area, he said.”

To his credit, it’s good to hear that a parking garage isn’t part of the immediate plans for any Canalside parcel. There are far too many options in the immediate area for there to be any excuse for including a ramp in future developments. What’s unfortunate is to hear that future development on more physical buildings at Canalside are on hold yet again. All of the parcels around the Central Wharf were sold to the public with dense, bustling streets. They’re still grassy lots at this time. Now the majority of the Aud Block will join those parcels and that of the parcel just south of the East Canal in development limbo. Read more…

Breaking down the rumored sites for the Bills next home

July 11, 2014

It’s the elephant in the room when it comes to discussing the future of the Bills in Buffalo. Finding a solution to where the Bills will be playing their games for the foreseeable future has presented a myriad of questions, proposals and debates throughout Western New York and it doesn’t appear we’re collectively closer to a final answer than before Ralph Wilson passed away.

The Buffalo News has been the most active in covering various plans and potential owners involved in the saga. They’ve done everything from profiling potential owners to scouting potential stadium sites. Outside of the News’ coverage, it appears as if there is a small handful of locations that have made the unofficial shortlist when it comes to the Bills home turf.

Keeping the team located in Orchard Park has been a popular topic along with spots in and around the Perry Projects, the Outer Harbor and even Niagara Falls. That group, to me, appears to be the most popular at this point in time. Other spots like Scott Congel’s land in West Seneca, Batavia and others have come up, but it seems as if they’re all extreme long shots.

What’s interesting is how the stadium project will factor into the mix with potential owners as well. Tom Golisano, Donald Trump or perhaps even Jeff Gundlach may have the funds to make a competitive bid on the franchise, but do they have the scratch to finance enough of a stadium to limit the need for PSLs – something that’s widely accepted as a non-starter given WNY’s economy? Terry Pegula, on the other hand, has the funds available to go off and buy the team and build the stadium without even searching for public assistance considering his vast wealth. In fact, you could argue that the $1.75 billion he made in his recent land sale is nearly enough to cover the costs associated with purchasing the team and building a new home in one fell swoop.

The various scenarios that can and will play out surrounding the potential owners is a lengthy conversation in and of itself. Placing the primary focus on what seems to work best in terms of a stadium without taking into account future influences from ownership is the point of this post. I’ve been on record voicing my support for a great number of options. At one point I saw the Outer Harbor as a simple solution but I’ve since backed off from that theory. I certainly support the idea of saving the public (and owner) any major costs by putting a serious renovation effort into the Ralph but I’d also love to see a perfect storm converge to see a new stadium built downtown. Read more…

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