Bit of a warning: I plan to ramble a bit here, as I may end up convincing myself I’m wrong. It’s a work in progress.
One of the recurring themes you hear when talking about guys in their walk years (especially on bad teams, or small market teams that ‘can’t afford them’) is that the GMs have to get something back for them. The Sabres recently had that with Brian Campbell, and most likely will hear about Tim Connolly in regards to this for this season regardless of what he does.
But the salary cap changes this, to my mind. You always ‘get something back’ for a UFA, cap space. When (if?) Timmy is not re-signed at the end of this season, you are getting back $4.5M in cap space, a tidy sum. I’m not arguing that $4.5M in cap space is better than $4.5M and a 2nd round pick, but it IS something. And it IS better than $2m in cap space and someone on the level of Drew Stafford or Clarke MacArthur (or Raffi Torres). This makes sense to me, but I *am* sleep deprived, so feel free to poke some holes.