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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…

The Case for Buying Out Christian Ehrhoff

July 3, 2014

Many Sabres fans were convinced Tim Murray was going to be one of the busier GM’s in the league during the draft and the days leading up to it; the collection of tradeable assets and desire to move back in to the 1st round made the assertion seem like a no brainer. Despite his best efforts, when the Devils made the final pick of the night Murray had yet to make a move. Although Murray and his staff came away with an impressive haul of new talent to add to an already formidable collection of prospects, many were left wanting.

Then we all woke up on Sunday to the news that Christian Ehrhoff, the last of Darcy Regier’s marquee signings from 2011, was on the way out; a victim of the Sabres’ 2nd amnesty buyout. There have been many opinions shared about the surprising move in the 24 or so hours since the news broke; some feel the move was a good one based on the player’s desire (or lack thereof) to be in the Queen City, while others lamented it was poor use of an asset
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Tim Murray has gone on record stating that Ehrhoff’s attitude and the fear of repercussions from a possible cap recapture penalty (if Ehrhoff were to call it a career prior to his contract ending) played a major role in the decision. I won’t get into whether or not a player’s desire to play for a given team is a plausible reason to buy him out, that’s a different debate for a different day. Read more…

Haul from Vanek trade continues to grow

July 2, 2014

Tim Murray may have inherited a clunker of a roster from Darcy Regier, but the organization still had good bones despite the kamikaze job Regier did on the roster prior to his departure.

One of Regier’s final acts continues to bear fruit for the Sabres as the trade that sent Thomas Vanek to the Islanders may serve as a major catalyst for Buffalo’s rebuild. Murray brought this full-circle by re-sigining Matt Moulson and Cody McCormick yesterday. By doing so, he brought back a pair of players he sold off as rentals at last year’s deadline and virtually saved any currency he spent in building for the future.

Moulson and McCormick return to Buffalo after being shipped off for a pair of second round picks and Torrey Mitchell at the deadline. Mitchell is still with the club and the two second round picks were turned into Josh Gorges, Eric Cornel and Brycen Martin – the latter two through this year’s draft. Gorges, Cornel and Martin all factor into a bigger picture that still includes Moulson and New York’s first and second round picks in the 2015 draft. It’s an impressive haul that could technically grow more should Cornel or Martin be used in a future transaction. For now, the original trade has become seven assets that are set to directly impact the team in 2014-15 and beyond.

Vanek

How can the Sabres hit the cap floor

June 30, 2014

There’s been quite a hubbub over Tim Murray having the capability to get the Sabres to the cap floor during free agency. It’s a concept that Murray has expressed his annoyance with publicly. Frankly, the worry that has been expressed over getting Buffalo above the league-mandated $51 million cap floor seems a bit overblown. And when the GM whose proven that he operates on a very even, analytical keel with all of his team’s roster moves has such little worry over a topic, there probably shouldn’t be much concern given by fans and media alike.

Buffalo currently has 37 NHL contracts on their books – not counting contracts like that of Linus Ullmark which haven’t started yet – with just over $38 million committed to the cap according to CapGeek. The work required to get to the cap floor will be markedly easier once Murray works out the contracts for Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno. Assuming Ennis gets just north of what Cody Hodgson received, he’ll be looking at roughly $4.5 million per year. Foligno might wind up in the neighborhood of $2.5 million on a bridge deal. That covers $7 million in space right off the bat.

Murray has not only insisted that the Sabres will not only spend in free agency, but work to find veterans who are capable of providing quality leadership to Buffalo’s rising prospects. Steve Ott and Matt Moulson have received the most press and attention due to their time spent in Buffalo but Brian Gionta has also been mentioned as an early target for the Sabres as free agency is set to open. Since I’m not in Buffalo’s front office I don’t know who exactly the Sabres will focus on. However, I do know that a pair of contracts valued at $5.5 and $3.5 million on two forwards (or another combination that reaches $9m in cap spending) brings the Sabres to $47 million towards the cap. Read more…

Who poses a threat to Mission McDavid in 2015?

June 24, 2014

With the 2014 NHL Draft just a few days away, the Sabres will be making the second highest selection in franchise history that should serve as a major piece of their current rebuild. While the Sabres’ 30th place finish this year ensured them a top-two selection at the draft, the real prize sits atop the 2015 NHL Draft when Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel are set to be picked first and second (not necessarily in that order).

While Tim Murray hasn’t come out and said it, the Sabres aren’t expected to compete for much more than the right to pick one of those two elite talents as yet another building block on the way to a Stanley Cup. Murray and the Sabres are in a good position for 2015 as they hold three picks in the first round, giving them that much more of a chance to score the first pick. While St. Louis’ pick (acquired as part of the Ryan Miller trade) won’t have any sort of effect on Buffalo’s lottery chances, it’s possible that the Islanders’ pick does provide some additional support. Ideally the Islanders would suffer through an ugly season and give the Sabres a massive boost towards snagging first overall. The worst case scenario is that they sneak into the playoffs and give the Sabres two picks in the bottom 15 selections of the round.

There won’t be any change made to the NHL Draft Lottery for next season, so the 30th place club will have a 25% chance to get the first pick with the odds decreasing with each subsequent finisher. So the Sabres could wind up in the exact position they’re in now. No matter how teams are posturing today doesn’t prevent five clubs from finishing between 25 and 30 in the standings and holding the top odds for a very valuable lottery.

I’ve taken the time to run through each club and give my opinion on the current trend they’re following (up, down or neutral), if they own their pick next season and the threat they are to wind up in the lottery. The lottery threat scale goes from one-to-five, with one being the most likely a team is to wind up at the bottom of the league and the top of the draft. Each team’s trend is more subjective as many teams were considered neutral despite having very different circumstances.

Buffalo’s own ranks would give them a downward (perhaps neutral) trend with a level one threat as a major player in the lottery. The Sabres will certainly make some moves this offseason but I don’t foresee anything on the horizon that will drastically turn the team’s fortunes around. The Sabres will certainly be a player for the first pick next year, although the odds certainly weigh against them landing McDavid. Read more…

Upgrades along the line set Bills up for offensive success

June 24, 2014

You might say that everything has been laid at EJ Manuel’s feet for the upcoming season, but that’s what everyone is saying. Mainly because it’s the truth.

The message was made pretty clear at the draft with the trade up to select Sammy Watkins and the additional investment in offensive players like Bryce Brown, Mike Williams and even Anthony Dixon. Albeit, Dixon is more of a special teams addition than anything else. Where Whaley really invested this offseason was along the line. While adding Watkins and Williams adds even more depth and talent to the receiving corps, the line could see major changes take hold. Since the Bills are boosting their offensive line-up, expect that oddsmakers will surely consider them as a contenders with official NFL betting lines moving in their favor this season, having fans and fantasy pickers taking notice.

Between the signing of Chris Williams, the expected return of a healthy Chris Hairston and draft picks Cyrus Kouandjio, Cyril Richardson and Seantrel Henderson, the Bills two-deep could undergo some serious changes. Read more…

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