Nearly a strong month of silence from One Seymour H Knox III Plaza was ended this week when the Buffalo Sabres announced a trio of new signings.
The final signing, a one-year deal for Marc-Andre Gragnani, is the most important of the three. The Sabres no longer have any players left without a contract after Gragnani agreed to terms. Earlier in the week Buffalo came to terms on one-year contracts for Mike Ryan and Paul Szezechura. Both will play in Rochester this season.
The acquisition of Ryan and Szezechura was a good move by the team as the Amerks were in desperate need of help at forward, particularly at center. Szezechura is a natural center and Ryan will likely allow for Matt Ellis to serve as a pivot as well. Both players are capable of putting up numbers at the AHL level in addition to having some NHL experience. Strong marks to Darcy Regier for finding two strong veterans for the Americans.
As for Gragnani, I am glad to see his contract finally get hammered out. The defenseman qualified for arbitration but wisely opted against it. I’m surprised it took this long for a deal to be reached and I am also somewhat surprised that it is only for one year. It makes me think that T.J. Brennan and, most likely, Mark Pysyk will be expected to fill a similar role in the coming years. Regardless, Gragnani progressed quite a bit in 2010-11 and established himself as a quality NHL blueliner. In fact, he was heads and shoulders better than Andrej Sekera in the Flyers series and Rej just got a heap of money thrown at him.
This does leave the Sabres with two problems. One, they have eight defensemen on their roster. However, this year comes with an easy fix; waive Shaone Morrisonn. The second problem remains the same problem that has existed since July. They are about eleventy billion dollars over the salary cap. There will need to be at least two moves made before they will have enough breathing room to operate on a daily basis and have room for call-ups. Right now simply pushing Ales Kotalik and Morrisonn’s salary to the AHL doesn’t offer enough of a cushion. They need to find a bit more space.
How they might go about doing that is anyone’s guess. You hear Brad Boyes and Jason Pominville mentioned a lot in this type of discussion and it makes sense. They have big contracts and could still garner some attention on the trade market. However, being this late in the summer makes me think it will be a different deal that trading a highly compensated forward. Sekera or Weber could potentially be on the chopping block since they have plenty of upside and very manageable cap hits.
I, for one, would move Sekera. He has shown quite a bit of skill over the past two years (both at the Olympics and last season) and he was compensated for doing so. However, he is not making a ton of money and would likely be very attractive to a team racing to the salary cap floor. Hello New York Islanders, I’m talking to you. The Colorado Avalanche also need to take on salary but may not want to part with any more draft picks after acquiring Seymon Varlamov. If Darcy Regier was able to snag a third-round selection for Sekera and ship him out to the Avalanche, I would be quite pleased with his work. Gragnani offers you the same skills, and more, and will still be making less if he re-signs again next year.
Regardless, the stockpile of defensive talent that the Sabres have is scary, I’m sure they will be parting with some of it in the coming seasons in order to bring in players for a Cup run, or two.