The Instigator Podcast 7.35 – Joe Yerdon Returns for a Free Agency Breakdown

Joe Yerdon returns for the second week in a row to breakdown the Sabres action (or lack thereof) on the opening day of free agency. We run down the depth signings that were made, the logjam on defense and in the bottom six and what lies ahead for the Sabres as they attempt to reshape their roster. Along the way we hit on the UFA goalie carousel, the Jimmy Vesey trade and the acquisition of Colin Miller.

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Patience a virtue on slow UFA Day

For months writers, hockey insiders and fans had talked about the thin free agent market for 2012. Apparently all of that was forgotten during one of the slowest openings to free agency in recent memory.

There were 59 total signings yesterday with a number of players working out a deal to stay with their former team. None of the big names inked their name to a contract, even the second-tier UFAs held off on making a decision. There were a few theories tossed around as to why players like Parise, Suter, Semin, Jokinen and others held off on signing. Some blame the expected trades of Bobby Ryan and Rick Nash, some point to others waiting for the dam to finally break. Some just blame the thin market.

The biggest signing (money) of the 2012 Free Agency period, thus far.

The reason for the dull showing yesterday probably lies in a number of different areas. The most obvious is that the top free agents are now waiting to make their final decision until they have heard and weighed every offer. NHL free agency is becoming less of a one day free-for-all and more of a two-three day process of discussion, offers and decision making. The Ryan and Nash trades likely have something to do with some of the waiting, but I suspect the shallow pool and the pending decisions for Parise and Suter likely have a lot to do with why next to nothing happened yesterday.

Looking down the list of transactions there isn’t one true winner. The Canucks got the biggest name, so far; the Senators made a trade and Anaheim tried to sign every defenseman on the market. Nothing of any profound impact occurred and I am of the belief that Parise and Suter will indeed set the firestorm for the rest of the league.

Those teams losing out on Suter will be screwed because Matt Carle is the only arguable top four defenseman left. Those teams hoping for Parise will either turn to Alex Semin or scramble for footing in the Nash and Ryan sweepstakes. Either way, there will be more action once today’s signings occur.

As for the decision by Darcy Regier to hold out and only make one marginal signing, I like it. Regier wasn’t quick to the trigger on overpaying for marginal talent, I’m certain he put out offers to those he wished to pursue and I think it is a safe bet that Uncle Terry pushed for a serious pitch to the Parise Camp. Continue reading

Ranking the 2012 UFA class: Defense and Goalies

My final group of free agents to analyze will be combined between defense and goaltenders. While there is an impressive number of defensemen hitting the market, there are only a few goaltenders available to be signed.

Despite being deep, I feel the defensive market only has a bit of cream which has risen to the top. As for the goalies, there isn’t much of anything to write home about from top to bottom. If you wish to read part one or two of this set of posts, click here for centers and here for wingers.

Defensemen

Ryan Suter – Age: 27 – 11-12 team: Nashville – 11-12 Cap Hit: $3,500,000

While Zach Parise is also going to be among the biggest fish landed this weekend, Suter is probably the most sought after commodity on the market this year. He is going to be due a raise in the $7M category and could possibly creep above $8M depending on who is bidding. He is an all-around talent who can be an anchor for any team’s blue line for a number of years.

Justin Schultz – Age: 21 – 11-12 team: Wisconsin (NCAA) – 11-12 Cap Hit: none

A rare occurrence, Schultz did not come to terms with Anaheim and will be a very young unrestricted free agent. Reports entering the weekend indicate that he is down to only a few teams, but he will still be sure to hit for an impressive pay day. There are certainly some question marks with no professional experience behind him, but he is NHL-ready and will be a mobile threat right away.

Matt Carle – Age: 27 – 11-12 team: Philadelphia – 11-12 Cap Hit: $3,437,500

Carle is still be courted by the Flyers and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him re-sign in Philly. The acquisition of Luke Schenn likely spells the end for either Carle or Pavel Kubina, but the Flyers seem to be high on Carle. I’ve never thought much of him when he hasn’t played with Chris Pronger, but that’s just me. Still, he is offensively gifted and has plenty to offer at a young age. If Philly doesn’t lock him up, he will get an impressive raise. Continue reading

Ranking the 2012 UFA class: Wingers

With unrestricted free agency opening this weekend, I am putting together a master list of the top free agents available on the market this offseason. Part one of my rankings covered the thin crop of centers hitting the market this weekend. Part two will cover a slightly deeper group of players, wings. I combined left and right wingers into this ranking, which will extend the total number beyond ten. Once again, the players are ranked on how popular they will be amongst potential suitors on July 1. Each player will get a short summary and those I see the Sabres targeting will get a little extra attention.

Zach Parise – LW – Age: 27 – 11-12 team: New Jersey – 11-12 Cap Hit: $6,000,000

Together with Ryan Suter, Parise forms the crown jewels of the 2012 UFA class. There are reports that he is attempting to work out a deal with the Devils, but I think he is smart enough to see what the other 29 teams may have to offer. An elite talent, Parise is going to command at least 47.5M on an annual basis with his new contract and may even break the $8M barrier. If the Sabres are to make an honest run at him, Tyler Ennis and Pat Kaleta will need to accept their qualifying offers and not reach for a more lucrative extension. Buffalo’s cap situation may prohibit them from chasing Parise, but he is the type of talent that will instantly make his new team better.

Alexander Semin – RW – Age: 28 – 11-12 team: Washington – 11-12 Cap Hit: $6,700,000

A mercurial talent, Semin could possibly be the most talented player in the league if he gave a full effort each night. However, there are more reports of his shortcomings than his successes. Semin will likely get an offer from a team looking for a shot in the arm in terms of goal scoring. Some have pegged the Sabres as a suitor but I fear that some of his more “typical Russian” characteristics wouldn’t work well under Lindy Ruff, in the Sabres room and alongside their newest toy, Mikhail Grigorenko.

Shane Doan – RW – Age: 35 – 11-12 team: Phoenix – 11-12 Cap Hit: $4,550,000

When the news broke the Shane Doan would indeed be testing the free agent market, things got a bit more interesting for teams looking to find the ever so valuable intangibles. Depending on where he signs, Doan will round out a top six or provide an above-average solution on a team’s third line. Since he plays such a great two-way game, there will be plenty of teams knocking down his door. Based on what he brings to the table, I’d almost be more interested in the Sabres taking a stab at him instead of Parise. The Sabres could use more help on the right side and a $5M hit is more manageable than a $8M hit.

Guillamme Latandresse – LW – Age: 25 – 11-12 team: Minnesota – 11-12 Cap Hit: $2,500,000

Latandresse’s injury concerns are probably why he didn’t get a qualifying offer from Minnesota. He is probably going to command at least $3M, if not more. An unexpected addition to the UFA crop, Latandresse will draw plenty of interest in a thin market. I like the idea of Latandresse if he is paired with the right center. However, his recent injury history may scare some teams off. If he was a right winger I would think the Sabres would have some interest. Continue reading

Ranking the 2012 UFA class: Centers

Unrestricted free agency opens on Sunday afternoon with a class of free agents widely considered to be shallow in terms of overall talent. However, there is a small group of elite players at the top of this year’s class that will surely break the bank before any fireworks are lit on July 4.

This is the first of a three-part list ranking the available top 10-15 free agents, by position, based on how popular they will be amongst teams on July 1. Each player will have a short summary beside their names and those I see being a possible target for the Sabres will get a little more attention. Part one will cover the centers.

Olli Jokinen – Age: 33 – 11-12 team: Calgary – 11-12 Cap Hit: $3,000,000

Aside from goaltenders, center is the thinnest position in this year’s class. Jokinen is probably the most offensively gifted center in the class, but is probably looking at limited options. Depending on what teams are looking for, he could be due a little competition. He won’t be back in Calgary, which means the market just got one more skilled addition.

Jason Arnott – Age: 37 – 11-12 team: St. Louis – 11-12 Cap Hit: $2,875,000

Arnott had a respectable season with St. Louis last year, filling an offensive role without being a go-to guy at center. At 37 his intangibles and experience probably offer more than he will over 82 games, but you could still count on 15-20 goals in the right situation. Arnott could be a potential target for Buffalo to bring a bit more experience to a young locker room while filling a role on the third line behind Cody Hodgson and Tyler Ennis. I could see him being counted on for a solid two-way game if he signs in Buffalo.

Paul Gaustad – Age: 30 – 11-12 team: Buffalo/Nashville – 11-12 Cap Hit: $2,300,000

Told you this was a weak position. Gaustad became a hot commodity in Buffalo because girls think he is cute. Then he started blocking shots and winning faceoffs and other teams took notice. Those hoping he comes back to Buffalo may not want to hold their breath. While he would be a good fit back on the third line, I doubt he takes a hometown discount to return to the Sabres. Gaustad is probably looking at some offers in the 2.85-3 range in terms of a cap hit, that is a little too rich for what he brings to the table. Continue reading

Don’t call it GM for a Day

On the eve of the 2011 NHL Draft, Darcy Regier spurred a deal with the Calgary Flames to acquire Robyn Regehr. Not only was it a trade that no Sabres fan would have seen under the former ownership, it was a trade none were expecting to see.

Regier’s action at last year’s draft set off a month-long string of moves geared towards making the Sabres a Cup contender. Tonight’s draft presents Regier with a very similar opportunity.

This isn’t supposed to be a GM for a Day post. It will certainly be similar to one, but it is more a genesis of the Pegula Puzzle posts I did last year.

If Bobby Ryan is to be acquired, it will likely come via draft day trade.

Considering that Regier has never been one to show his hand with regard to free agents or trades makes the likelihood of acquiring Jordan Staal or Bobby Ryan somewhat unlikely. In fact, there have been plenty who have noted that Regier hasn’t pulled the trigger on any trade that had been widely speculated, rather a trade that few were aware of.  That much was proved last year with the acquisition of Cody Hodgson and Regehr.

I fully expect Regier to make at least one trade this weekend. I also think there is the potential to acquire an impact player. However, I’m not in the position to speculate who he may chase. After all, this isn’t Xbox.

The idea of Bobby Ryan is nothing short of tantalizing. Buffalo may even have the pieces available to get him away from the Ducks. Some reports on Ryan’s availability mention Anaheim’s desire to acquire a number of pieces to help construct their roster. I would venture a guess that any package would require a first round pick and at least one roster player and one prospect. Perhaps two roster players.

If you’re spitballing, a combination of Derek Roy, Jordan Leopold or Andrej Sekera and a pick might be close, but still short on talent. The Sabres would probably need a top prospect to swing the deal. Continue reading

Monty’s rights sent to Chicago

As you most certainly know, Steve Montador’s negotiating rights have been traded to the Chicago Blackhawks for a conditional seventh round pick. If you didn’t know, I’m glad 2ITB could enlighten you. Here is the stipulation for the draft pick from the Buffalo News article linked above.

The Blackhawks’ draft pick was previously acquired from Florida in the Tomas Kopecky trade Monday. The pick is presently conditional to the Nashville Predators. If that pick is not available, Florida will transfer its own seventh-round selection in the 2013 draft.

So Monty’s rights are gone. What’s the big deal? It was fairly obvious that Montador was going to be able to test the market, at the very least. I don’t think there would have been much chance to re-sign him given the thin crop of UFA defensemen. Given that fact I applaud Darcy Regier for getting something for nothing.In only four months under his new bosses, Regier has taken on salary with the Brad Boyes and Robyn Regehr trades while also taking shots for marquee free agents. Obviously this man has not been getting the credit he deserves, I don’t know if he ever will.

Nevertheless, Darcy went out and snagged a late-round pick for the rights to Montador. The key to this deal is two-fold. The sticking point, for me, is that Regier recouped the pick he lost in the Ehrhoff trade. I know a seventh round pick is a lot different from a fourth round pick, but he still has that selection in his pocket. The other facet of this deal, depending how you look at it, is that he must be very confident that Ehrhoff will be signed by the end of the day.

I am not as confident regarding Ehrhoff being close to an agreement. Sure, I am confident that Regier has the tools necessary to get Ehrhoff under conract, but I don’t know if I read this trade as a sign that a deal is imminent. If that is the case, then awesome. But I am trying to be patient regarding Ehrhoff until I hear more concrete news in his regard.

Sabres acquire Ehrhoff’s rights

It was 12 short hours ago that the New York Islanders traded their fourth-round pick to the Vancouver Canucks in order to get the exclusive negotiating rights to Christian Erhoff. After those talks fell apart Darcy Regier flew in and picked up the rights for the German-born defenseman. Now he has about 28 hours to convince Ehrhoff to sign with the Sabres.

Numerous accounts explained how the talks with the Isles fell apart, despite an offer “well above” the Canucks’ original. While no number had been hammered down concerning how much the Isles offered, I think it is safe to say it was in the $5 to $5.5 million neighborhood.

One quote, from a previous ESPN rumor, provided some insight as to why Ehrhoff declined to sign with the Islanders. It provides some hope to Sabres fans who hope to see him reach an agreement before Friday.

The defenseman has stated on several occasions that he wants to sign with a contender.

While I am not a fan of trading for exclusive negotiating rights, this is just another piece of the puzzle that is the Pegula Era. Obviously Darcy Regier feels free to go out and get whatever players he wants. In this case, he knows that the UFA crop is dwindling and he sprung to action.

Now Regier needs to sign him. This deal really means nothing if Ehrhoff hits the open market and signs elsewhere. Sure, it is a sign of the times. Obviously Darcy is willing to do whatever it takes, but without signing him there isn’t much hope to be had.

There are a few things working in Buffalo’s favor. The Sabres are certainly more of a winner than the Islanders are currently, score one for the good guys. The Sabres also have an incredible owner willing to go above and beyond to get his players, including meeting their quotes, score two. However, there are 27 other teams out there who may be willing to hit the $6 million mark, or more. That is where things get fishy. I don’t think this young man is worth that much money. If the Sabres hope to land Brad Richards and a few other players, a $6 million hit will be tough to deal with.

The ball is in Darcy’s court. He has just over one day to get things done, hopefully the situation in Buffalo is more attractive to Ehrhoff than it was on the Island. If that is the case there might just be a new number five in town come Friday.