For the first time in my 25 years on Earth, the Buffalo Sabres were major players in the NHL free agent market. In fact, the Blue & Gold had the highest payroll in the NHL when the dust had settled.
The week prior to July 1 saw Darcy Regier poach Robyn Regehr, a second-round pick and Ales Kotalik (a charity pick-up) from the Calgary Flames for Chris Butler and Paul Byron. Point Regier. What is more impressive is that Buffalo was attractive enough for Regehr to waive his no movement clause for.
Regier then snagged Christian Ehrhoff’s negotiating rights and managed to ink him to a massive deal prior to the UFA market opening up. Ehrhoff, has put up incredible numbers in Vancouver. He is a career minus in the playoffs. However, I blame his -13 this year – which put him deep into the minus numbers – on the shoulder injury that limited him in the later rounds.
Regehr looks a hell of a lot like Shrek, he also tosses people around like an angry orge. Sort of a fitting nickname, no? I don’t know if he will be reunited with Jordan Leopold, or if he will be paired with Tyler Myers to create a monstrous shut-down pairing. Ehrhoff could certainly compliment Myers well, and it may be a better fit considering both he and Leopold are quite offensively minded. Nevertheless, they make the blue line significantly stronger.
Regier went out and made two major additions to his blue line before the clock struck noon on Friday. It was expected that the Sabres would make a major push for Brad Richards. They never did, partially because the New York Rangers were given the final right to match an offer for Richards and because they may have lost out on Ville Leino.
Buffalo’s only UFA signing, thus far, has been Leino. Despite only signing one guy, Regier went out and got a big fish. Leino is a very talented forward, capable of playing all three forward positions who is a major playoff performer. He put a dagger in Buffalo’s series lead on Philly and has been on my personal radar since his first year with Detroit in 2008-09. They may have overpaid, but if he flourishes at pivot there is no reason to say they overpaid.
There is plenty of time left in free agency, despite the current financial restraints I don’t think Regier is done signing players. Especially if they are to make a trade or two, as I suspect.
Looking at the signings Buffalo has made thus far, including re-signing Nathan Gerbe, Cody McCormick and Mike Weber, they have made major improvements to the roster.
Between Shrek and The Hoff the Sabres’ top four is about six times better than they were last year. Just on paper, think about it. Tyler Myers, Jordan Leopold, Steve Montador and Shaone Morrison/Andrej Sekera versus Myers, Leopold, The Hoff and Shrek. It is sort of like buying a Chrysler 300 because it looks like a Phantom.
The Sabres’ back end will be better, no doubt. By association Ryan Miller should be better. It is the forwards, particularly the top six who will be interesting to watch.
Leino and Derek Roy are not exactly a deadly one-two punch at center. I still think Darcy has a trade up his sleeve. If Leino clicks and Roy continues that point-per-game clip from 2010-11 then there may be hope. The wingers are obviously set, Jochen Hecht or Brad Boyes will likely settle on to the third line. Tyler Ennis, Drew Stafford, Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek all have homes with Buffalo’s top two centers. Now they just need to produce.
Surely there will be some shuffling amongst the bottom six forwards. I think their help, or reinforcements, are still on the to-do list for Darcy. I have a few thoughts on who may fit well in that role, even as a number one center depending on a potential trade.
Until Regier knows his cap number moving forward, not much else will be done by the Sabres.