Since the Buffalo Sabres have been eliminated for a while now, I think it’s safe to take a look at the pending UFAs and see who we want to bring back. The Sabres got out ahead of us, by announcing the signing of Mike Grier to a 1 yr, $1.4 million deal the other day. He said right off he wanted to be back, so this was the easiest decision GMDR and company have made. Grier is an important part of the PK as well as being the sort of hard worker you want the younger guys learning from and leaning on.
The rest of the UFAs, with last season’s cap hit after:
- Raffi Torres – $2,250,000
- Adam Mair – $758,333
- Matt Ellis – $500,000
- Toni Lydman – $2,875,000
- Henrik Tallinder – $2,562,500
- Patrick Lalime – $1,000,000
Not including the AHL roster filler guys like Joe DiPenta (although Cody McCormick did make an impression). Looking at the forwards, I’d be fairly certain Raffi Torres is not sticking around. He just never found ‘it’ here, and he has his sights set on other locales anyway. Mair and Ellis are a bit different, though. It’s easy to say ‘let them both go!’ and bring in Gerbe or Ennis or someone like that, but it’s not that simple. Mair has stuck around longer than you’d imagine, simply due to the fact that he’s one of the few ‘tough’ Sabres. But there are guys coming up (Zack Kassian, for one) who can provide that with more upside. Matt Ellis seems more likely to be back, especially if he is willing/able to go on a two-way deal. Lindy seems to be a big fan, and he has been a consistent effort guy, which you can’t always say for the top six as currently formed.
For the defense (your honor), Tallinder and Lydman are both heading towards free agency. Keeping both seems unlikely, but I’m not sure which one I would choose. Lydman may be better all around, but I also have a hard time letting go of the guy Tyler Myers developed so much chemistry with. Keeping neither is also an option, though the questions around Rivet’s shoulder might make at least one coming back more likely.
As for backup goalie, Patrick Lalime may be the best option out there as far as a guy willing to take that role, unless Marty Biron decides it’s worth coming back. To be honest, the numbers weren’t much different last year between the two, but Marty is still a fan favorite and has an obvious love of the area. Management is probably comfortable with either guy, so the wants and needs of other teams may be the biggest factor here.
A trade involving the upper half of the roster is still possible, and I know some of you are hoping it’s likely, to give the forward lines a bit of a shakeup. I don’t think that does much to change what the Sabres do with these guys, though. Will be looking at RFAs another time.