Can scoring depth be found on UFA market?

With free agency nearly a week old, the Sabres are still in a position of need when it comes to filling holes left after last season.

Darcy Regier has been quiet in the early going of the free agency period, acquiring more grit and toughness for the Sabres’ bottom six. His only NHL signing has been one for the fringe ($600K for John Scott) and he did make a fairly significant trade when he sent Derek Roy to Dallas in exchange for Steve Ott and Adam Pardy.

Peter Mueller is one of the few right wingers on the open market that could help the Sabres.

Since the Sabres have nine defensemen under contract – ten if you’re counting T.J. Brennan and Brayden McNabb – and a glaring need for additional offensive depth, preferably at center.  The trade market is where Regier is hoping to patch the rest of the holes in his ship, but it seems as if a stagnant free agent market is now slowing the trade market.

Buffalo has been tied to just about any player rumored to be on the block since the Stanley Cup Final. Whether it be Bobby Ryan or Jordan Staal, people have easily drawn conclusions between the Sabres, their need for talent up front and the current trade market. However, the only trade that has been made so far was a balanced hockey trade that brought the Sabres more pugnacity. Yet, they remain very much in the market for help in the goal scoring department and at center. The two needs may or may not be mutually exclusive.

The Sabres are currently in a situation where they may have an 18-year old rookie (Mikhail Grigorenko) and two 22-year olds (Tyler Ennis and Cody Hodgson) on their opening night roster. Grigorenko’s status is still up in the air, but the other two are sure locks. Behind them lies a pair of empty spots on the depth chart. Filling those spots is becoming increasingly difficult. However, there are a few names on the open market who could potentially end up with a contract in Buffalo for next season.

As for finding scoring depth, the free agent market for centers is rather devoid of that trait. However, there are plenty of wingers available who can give the Sabres some additional scoring depth on wing.

If my previous idea of flipping Thomas Vanek to right wing doesn’t fly, which is more than likely, the Sabres will probably want to snag a right winger to settle in behind Jason Pominville and Drew Stafford on the depth chart. 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