Training Camp Approaches but Sabres Still Have Questions

In February of 2010 the NHL will shut down because of the Olympics.  The shutdown has forced the league to start training camp a week earlier than last year for all 30 teams in the NHL.  It will be less than a month from now when the Buffalo Sabres step on the ice for their pre-season opener against the Washington Capitals.

There is less than a month before the Sabres start training camp but their are still questions that are left unanswered.  While most of us are hoping to enjoy our last couple of weeks before summer is over, the Sabres are working on trying to finalize their roster and answer some important questions.

This is an important season for Darcy Regier and Lindy Ruff and they probably want to answer these questions sooner rather than later.  Some questions that still need to be answered are...will they try to replace the offensive output from the blue line that was lost when Spacek signed with the Canadiens?  Will they be able to sign restricted free agent Drew Stafford?  Did they make the right decision by trying to become a bigger stronger team?

Will Darcy Regier try to replace the offensive output of Jaro Spacek?

In a perfect world Darcy would go out and get himself a puck moving defenseman for the blue line.  Unfortunately it is not a perfect world and that may be an impossible task.  They had no choice but to let Spacek go because his contract demands didn't fit in the Sabres budget.

Spacek scored eight goals last season and led al defensemen with 45 points.  In comparison the Sabres have only 17 goals from the remaining seven defensemen on the roster.  Craig Rivet was second among defensemen in points and he had only two goals and 22 assists for 24 points.

Darcy has stated publicly that the team is confident that youngsters Andrej Sekera and Chris Butler can step up their game offensively.  That will be a tough task considering that Butler is going into his second year in the NHL and Sekera into his third.  Butler played well last season but was asked only to play solid defensively and not make mistakes.  Sekera was wildly inconsistent last season, especially at the end of the season.

Publicly he has stated he is confident but privately he has to be scared as hell that the Sabres have not been able to acquire an offensive threat on defense.

The contracts of Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman are basically untradeable and that has hampered the ability to improve the blue line. 

Unless there is a team that is willing to take on some salary, it is likely the Sabres will start the season with the players they have signed.  The team will have to hope pray that somebody can step up and produce some offensive numbers.

Will the Sabres be able to sign restricted free agent forward Drew Stafford?

We talk about the importance of Drew Stafford everyday but there is really no hurry to get him signed.  It's our need for Sabres news, in a 24 hour sports world, that makes a big deal about getting this done quickly.

Until he has actually signed there is always the possibility that another team could sign him to an offer sheet.  If another team signs him the Sabres still have the option to match the offer and if they choose not to they would be entitled to compensation.

Compensation Chart

$863,156 or less - no compensation

$863,156 - $1,307,812 - 3rd round pick

$1,307,812 - $2,615,625 - 2nd round pick

$2,615,625 - $3,923,437 - 1st round & 3rd round pick

$3,923,437 - $5,231,249 - 1st round, 2nd round & 3rd round pick

 

The Sabres would likely match up to $2,615,625 and would receive compensation if he gets anymore than that.  Everyone would like to have Stafford on the roster but a 1st and 3rd round pick for Stafford would be a fair trade in opinion.

There is no reason for the Sabres to panic and sign him right now.  If they get this deal done by the start of training camp than nothing will be lost.

Did the Sabres make the right move by signing bigger, stronger players in effort to become a more physical team?

After the lockout the Sabres built their team with nothing but small, skilled forwards.  That philosophy helped them to the Eastern Conference Finals and a Presidents Trophy.

After the lockout the league was diligent in calling penalties, especially stick fouls and that helped teams like the Sabres excel.  In the past couple of seasons we have seen more and more penalties go uncalled and teams that play a physical style have been rewarded.

The Sabres noticed the change in philosophy and they are starting to adapt.  It was definitely the right move to build a stronger team but did they do enough?  I don't kno the answer to that question but I do know they have tried.

 

There are some questions I'm sure I forgot.  Feel free to comment on any questions you think the Sabres need to answer before the season starts.

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