Darcy Regier has been vilified for letting talented players slip away. While the short term pain of these moves has been undeniable, it would appear that he has made the right moves in each circumstance (except for one). Below is a summary of major free agent losses (or players who were traded away b/c the would be losses).
We'll get the big ones out of the way first:
Daniel Briere: Ask any Philly fan what they think of Briere and be ready to hear words you haven't heard before. He's been decently productive when he's been healthy, but even then nowhere worth the contract. The biggest problem has been that he hasn't been able to stay healthy. I don't think anyone here will argue that Briere is worth the money he has been paid.
Chris Drury: A guy I would love, and I assume most Rangers fans love, to have on my team. That having been said, the price would appear to get in the way of attracting other free agents and keeping young players. The production and intangibles do not appear to match the salary. Again, in this case, it appears Darcy made the right decision. Of course, feel free to discuss the potential that the Sabres let a contract extension sit on the table for too long, but I don't think that is Darcy's fault. Let's also hope that Drury recovers fully from his latest concussion.
Brian Campbell: An astronomical salary from Chicago showed that getting something for him was better than getting nothing. It appears Campbell's agent knew what he'd be able to get for his client and that the Sabres weren't the team to pay it. The up and coming defensive depth appears to have made this a good long term move.
Mike Grier: Grier had no interest in staying in Buffalo (apparently). Therefore, I'm not sure a long discussion about the merits of his leaving are very good. However, it appears San Jose overpaid for a guy who has the intangibles, but whose offensive production will be limited. The Sabres may be getting a slight bargain from him this year, but in no way should they have ponied up more than 2 mil to keep him. Not with the young players due for contracts in the 2-3 years following the initial departure of Grier.
Jay Mckee: The Sabres gambled on this one and it paid off financially for Mckee. They challenged him to stay healthy and earn a new contract and he (largely) did that. Then, St. Louis overpaid for him and he proceeded to spend almost as many games (or maybe more, I'm to lazy to google this morning) out of the lineup as in it.
J.P. Dumont: I would have loved to have seen the Sabres stick w/ Dumont. Instead they went all in w/ Kotalik. Dumont was a guy who took to heart Lindy's "play out of character" in the playoffs mentality and appears to have carried that to the regular season in Nashville. I was a big fan of this guy and in my opinion, this was just a screw up on Darcy's part.
Now on to the players who have received long-term deals.
Jochen Hecht: This one is disappointing. They paid second line money to a guy who is at his best when he's a third line guy who is solid and chips in the occassional goal.
Jason Pominville: Can't blame them for signing him, but you have to wonder if the maturity is there. The guy plays great, then earns his contract and is invisible on many nights.
Thomas Vanek: Edmonton really forced their hands on this one. The contract was a borderline elite contract from a player who has shown flashes of being an elite player, but disappears on too many nights. That having been said, the team had no choice but to match the offer sheet.
Ryan Miller: A great deal for both Miller and the Sabres. He's becoming elite, if only he can have a backup that could give him a rest and not give the team an automatic L.
Tim Connolly: At the time this one happened, I was very confused. The contract is huge for a player that can't stay healthy for a whole season and that I honestly don't know if any team would have given him the same contract in this economy. He may be the most talented player on the team, but I'm also waiting for him to be consistent (a common theme among the players Darcy has extended...minus Miller)
So, the question becomes, was there short term success lost? Almost certainly, but would the team have ended up in salary cap "jail" by signing these players? It appears there is a better mix this year, but will it hold up over the long haul? I think the Sabres have managed this one like a small market team must. By developing their own talent and mixing in veteran's who are here until they become too expensive for the team. I don't know if this will make them a championship team, but it should mean that the team is competitive long term. Perhaps its time to turn a few of their assets into a trade deadline acquisition that could put them over the top and is still young enough to remain with the team for a few years. Agree or Disagree? Did I leave any out? Why didn't I post this in the offseason (the answer: I'd rather talk about this now instead of thinking about whether the Sabres have returned to the form of the last two seasons with their play of late.)?