This past weekend the Buffalo Sabres announced they had come to terms with free agent defenseman Joe Dipenta. Dipenta is a another big defenseman that has a bit of a mean streak. He has NHL experience and his name is engraved in the Stanley Cup after winning it as a member of the Anaheim Ducks.
His contract is a two-way contract according to capgeek.com, meaning that he was likely signed to bring a veteran presence to the young blue-liners in Portland. He will likely never see the Sabres lineup this season but it made me start thinking about who would be on the Sabres blue line this season.
The Sabres no have eight NHL defensemen on the roster including Joe Dipenta. The team has also indicated that Mike Weber and 2008 first round pick Tyler Myers will have an opportunity to crack the Sabres opening day roster. That leaves the Sabres with at least 10 players that are competing for seven roster spots and six active spots.
Lindy Ruff has his work cut out for him when he decides who will be on the roster when the season starts. There is still time for Darcy Regier to make the decision easier with a couple of trades but that seems more and more unlikely as the days drag on.
The first couple of spots are easy to figure out but after that it is anyone guess who will be here, or better yet who should be here. The sad reality is that the players that will be on the team may not be the same players that should be on the team; the Sabres have to factor finances into the equation.
Definite Roster Spots
Craig Rivet - The only way that Rivet is not on the Sabres opening night roster is if he suffers an injury. Rivet is the epitome of what the Sabres want their blue line to be. He is big, tough an he is not afraid to drop the gloves with anyone. He is also a sound defensive player and he is the leader of the team.
Steve Montador - He is probably only a fifth or sixth defenseman on this team but he wasn't brought in to sit the bench. Montador will add toughness to the Sabres blue line and he is a NHL veteran.
Likely Roster Spots
Chris Butler - After his play last season there is no reason to believe that he will not be on the Sabres roster. Reality is that he is still a young player and could regress but he seems to have his head on straight and knows what it takes to play in the NHL. The Sabres are hoping that he will be ready to take on an increased role after the loss of Spacek. In college Butler had some offensive upside to his game and the Sabres are hoping that he will be able to tap into that skill this season.
Andrej Sekera - Sekera will be on this team unless the finances don't add up. He is a restricted free agent and until he signs a contract he could always end up on another team. The Sabres will be able to match any contract offer he receives from another team but they might not have the money to do it. Sekera is another player that Lindy Ruff is hoping to use in a more offensive role which makes signing him that much more important.
Possible Roster Spot
Toni Lydman - Lydman was the Sabres best defensive player last season. He led the team in blocked shots and he was near the best in hits. He still has a tendency to give the puck away in his own zone and create scoring opportunities for the opposition. Lydman would likely have some trade value for a team that is looking for defensive help and he is in the final year of his contract. The Sabres would probably like to keep him but he may be shipped out to save money to sign other players.
Henrik Tallinder - Big Hank has seen his game regress considerably over the past two seasons and likely doesn't figure into the Sabres future plans. He may not figure into the future but they may be stuck with him at present. Tallinder is in the final year of a contract and is set to earn $3.25 million this season. The Sabres only chance to free themselves of Tallinder is if a desperate team is looking for defensive help and have not scouted Tallinder since 2006.
Nathan Paetsch - Paetsch is a versatile player that will play anywhere on the ice. At his cheap price tag the Sabres would likely be happy to keep him on the roster. He may become the victim of a numbers game but will likely fill the role of the number seven defenseman again this year.
Mike Weber - Mike Weber plays the physical style of hockey that the Sabres are trying to play this season. He had some NHL success when he finished the 2007-2008 season with the Sabres and seemed read to jump into the lineup last season. Injuries set him back last season but he looked good in prospect camp and declared "this is his season". Weber seems ready to make the jump and the Sabres would love to see it happen.
Tyler Myers - Myers had an amazing breakout season in Juniors last year and is expected to compete for a job in the NHL. Myers has accomplished almost everything he can in juniors but may have to go back because of a numbers game. Because of his age he will have to be absolutely outstanding during training cam to earn a regular spot with the Sabres. If there are some injuries he can play up to 10 games in the NHL before the Sabres have to make a decision on whether he stays or not.
Long-Shot to make Roster
The Sabres should have no problem filling six spots on the blue line but the question is who will fill them? If they are unable to trade away some salary the decision will be made for them. Myers and Weber only have a shot to make this team if some players are sent away before the start of the season in October.
The Sabres options are plentiful but so are the question marks.
- Who are the best six/seven defensemen?
- Will anyone get traded before the season starts?
- Who can fill the offensive void that was let with the departure of Spacek?
- Will the added toughness make the Sabres a better team?
- What defensemen can play on the power play?
This is just a small example of the question marks regarding the Sabres defense. Some of these questions will be answered soon but others may linger throughout the season. I know that many of you have ideas about the Sabres defense and I would love to hear your ideas. Let's hear them!