Sabres hit the ceiling, re-sign Ellis and Sekera

The past few weeks have been pretty boring for most hockey fans and suddenly a few GMs woke up today and made some noise.

Tampa Bay reached an agreement with Steven Stamkos for some big money, Anaheim extended Andrew Cogliano and the Devils announced Pete DeBoer as the next head coach that Lucky Lou will fire.

Darcy Regier got his hands dirty with two more signings as well. He re-signed Matt Ellis and Andrej Sekera each to a multi-year contract. Ellis will be with the Sabres for two more seasons while Sekera was re-upped for four more years. These came on the heels of a pair of minor league contracts for Dennis Persson and Travis Turnbull, somewhat irrelevant but necessary signings.

The terms of the Ellis deal are not fully disclosed, but Bill Hoppe reported that Ellis will be under a two-way contract for the 2011-12 season and a one-way deal for 2012-13. I’m glad to see Ellis back in the fold. He is likely destined for Rochester as he served very well as the Portland Pirates captain last season. He will certainly be one of the first players called up by Lindy Ruff if there is an injury. Another bonus to signing Ellis? The Sabres are 76-39-16 with him in the lineup the past three seasons and 53-49-13 without him (see #EllisPrinciple or #MattEllisEffect). Thanks to Ian Ott for tweeting those stats.

As for Sekera, I am on the fence. His deal is four years for $11 million. That is a $2.75 million cap hit for those of you playing at home. I wouldn’t have given him that much dough. $2.5 million would have been the absolute max for what he brings to the table. However, quotes from Darcy Regier make it seem like Sekera’s arbitration award would have been in this neighborhood, if not higher. Nevertheless, the Sabres have three offensively capable defensemen under contract in Christian Ehrhoff, Jordan Leopold and Tyler Myers. Marc-Andrej Gragnani is still an RFA but he also possesses those skills. Why sign another puck mover? Especially a soft one like Sekera. I agree that he is a better option than Shaone Morrisonn, but I still think that money could be better spent elsewhere.

One issue that I see is that you don’t gain as much benefit from moving Morrisonn to another team or the minors. His cap hit does nothing but negate Sekera’s. Moving Ales Kotalik will still give the Sabres breathing room, but not as much as previously anticipated.The Sabres are now over $2 million above the cap ceiling before signing MAG or Enroth.

I am going to stand by my guns and say there is still another move coming from Darcy Regier. Once signed, MAG will make seven defensemen and Jhonas Enroth will be the backup goalie. Stuffing Kotalik in the minors will give scant relief from the cap, the Sabres will still need to shuffle more pieces in order to function well throughout the year. Sekera’s deal really isn’t too horrible in a financial sense, he still makes an attractive trade target, as does Derek Roy, Enroth and even guys like Brad Boyes or Jason Pominville.

One interesting destination for the Sabres to seek would be Nashville. They are well below the salary cap floor (before signing Shea Weber) and could use some help offensively, particularly on the power play. While they don’t have too many attractive pieces to send back, the Preds could certainly be a destination for Jason Pominville or Brad Boyes, each make over $4 million per season. The Islanders are also well below the floor and would also be a great suitor for Shaone Morrisonn, Pominville or Boyes. I don’t want to speculate too much, however. This all is nonsense until October gets closer, or until Regier makes a move.

I am certain that the Sabres need to move at least one player out-of-town to clear space, the question is who will it be?


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