Tim Connolly. Say that name near Sabres fans, and you’ll get a reaction. Largely, a negative one. Maybe a few will reminisce about when he was ‘good’, recall his play in the playoffs after the lockout, but then they bring up the injuries, the concussions, and you end up back at the same place – good riddance!
Except…have you seen the other options for centers out there? You’ve got Brad Richards on the radar (you and every other team that is), but then what? For UFA’s, the field is pretty bleak. Jason Arnott? Eric Belanger? Brooks Laich? Laich might be the best bet, but nobody out there is screaming Number ONE center loudly (or Number TWO for that matter). RFAs aren’t happening either. Offer sheets for the good ones will be matched, and if they aren’t ‘good’, see above. You aren’t finding Danny Briere on the scrap heap every year. Though if they could pull it off again…well, we can dream.
So that leaves trades. The trick here is having what others want, and the other team needing to make a move for some reason. The fact that the salary cap went up as much as it did complicates that – not as many teams need to shed salary to keep their best players. There are some targets out there (Stephen Weiss? Paul Stastny?) but their are complicating factors (for Weiss, the Panthers are barely hitting the floor, and Weiss’s cap hit is over $3mil, and Stastny has a big money deal on another team near the floor).
That brings things back to Tim Connolly. He’s a known quantity, for better or worse. He’s had productive stretches, though not in the playoffs lately. He’s been brittle. He infuriates you with his potential. He doesn’t talk to the media very much, so despite the fact that he’s been here seemingly forever, we don’t really know him. At least for Max, he had the language barrier, but Timmy is from this very state.
Look, we all know the Sabres NEED a center for one of the top two lines. I don’t think TC can do that anymore. However, this year is not a year with an easy solution to that problem. Sign Brad Richards! but for how much and how long? Despite the loosened purse strings and Darcy flexing his deal-making muscles, you still don’t want to kill your flexibility. Especially with Tyler Myers coming due for a pay upgrade. Timmy might just be the only feasible option (at a much lower price than the last contract) while we wait and see if someone else comes available, or someone like Luke Adam takes hold of a spot. I’m not sure I like it any more than you do, but what I am saying is, don’t be surprised if it does happen.