On Monday night the Buffalo Sabres made headlines by signing free agent forward Mike Grier. The signing was another move that was aimed at changing the makeup of the team and making them tougher. While helping to solve one problem it created another. Signing Grier made the Sabres a tougher team but it also created a logjam at the forward position.
The Sabres now have 13 NHL forwards under contract and that number doesn't include restricted free agent Drew Stafford. When Stafford signs (and I think he will) the Sabres will have 14 NHL ready forwards to fill 12 open spots in the lineup. Only 12 players will dress on a nightly basis but they are likely to keep 13 and could possibly push that to 14 if they felt it was necessary.
The number of NHL-ready forwards is at 14 but that number jumps to 17 when you include restricted free agent Mark Mancari (if he signs), AHL rookie of the year Nathan Gerbe and Tim Kennedy who led all AHL rookies in points last season. All three players will be given every opportunity to make the team but it would be purely speculative to think that any of them is good enough to play in the NHL this season.
Having so many players could be easily be looked at as a problem but it could also be turned into a positive. Right from the outset there will be stiff competition among the players to make the roster. It will force every single player to give 100% at training camp and will hopefully make each of them better players.
There will be people on both sides of this topic. Take a look at the arguments for both sides and decide what you think about the Sabres forward situation.
Sabres Have Too Many Forwards
The argument can be made that the Sabres have too many players to fill too few positions. This means that good players are going to be left without a roster spot. This means that good players would be wasted in Portland or worse yet they could lose some players via waivers.
Cody McCormick was signed to a two-way contract and becomes a likely candidate to start the season in Portland. McCormick was brought to Buffalo to add toughness and he will have trouble doing that in Portland.
I'll lump Nathan Gerbe and Tim Kennedy together because they both have huge expectations but they can both be sent back to Portland without the worries of waivers. This makes it likely that both players will start the season in Portland no matter how well they perform in training camp. It would be a shame to see such talented players wasted in Portland because they can be sent down without waivers.
Mark Mancari is another player that was a standout in Portland but he hasn't played much in the NHL up till this point in his career. Mancari might be ready to make the jump to the NHL but he could be pushed out because of a numbers game. Mancari would have to clear waivers to be sent to Portland, meaning there would be a possibility of losing him to another team.
Matt Ellis spent some time in Portland last season and he could be a candidate to be sent down again this season. Like Mancari, Ellis would have to clear waivers to be sent down.
There is Never Too Much Depth
This is the flip side of the argument. If players like McCormick, Mancari, Gerbe and Kennedy are playing in Portland it will make the team better in the long run. Only a handful of players were able to play the entire season without missing time to injury last season. Having players like Gerbe and Kennedy ready to step in at a moments notice will be huge for the Sabres.
Remember that a couple of seasons ago the Sabres started the season with Jason Pominville and Derek Roy in Rochester. Both players were called up due to injury and they were key parts of the team that lost to Carolina in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Having capable players wasting away in Portland is a luxury that most teams would envy. It is not a problem to have too many forwards.
Which side of the argument are you on. Would you like to see the Sabres trade away a player or two in an effort to open up some room for Gerbe and Kennedy or are you content to use them as depth in case of injury?