Saying goodbye to players who maintained a place in an organization for most of or all of their career is awkward because its an after-thought. Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman weren't spectacular, but they were steady, safe and solid for the Buffalo Sabres. The Swede was with the club from day one of his eight-year career and the Finn lasted five seasons as a bargain buy. As shutdown defensemen, the duo believed in the old adage, "better safe than sorry" - Tallinder using the boards to clear a puck and Lydman backhanding it high in the air to dismiss the pressure.
With the free agency period set in motion and each veteran cut loose, Tallinder earned a four-year contract with the New Jersey Devils worth $13.5 million and Lydman accepted the terms of a three-year deal with the Anaheim Ducks that will pay him $3 million per campaign. Tallinder was a mentor of sorts for Tyler Myers although in fairness, the student became the teacher in due time. The Devils have three young Swedish players on their way over; Jacob Josefson, Mattias Tedenby and Alexander Urbom and the 31-year-old will try to rub off on them.
Lydman, slightly more offensive-minded than Tallinder, comes to Anaheim as advertised with a good volume of playing minutes to offer and upwards of 20 points. Darcy Regier converted responsible defense for offensive instincts with the inclusion of Jordan Leopold, who had his top statistical year dating back to 2004, with 11 goals and 26 points. If he's not involved in the losing end of a train wreck, the 29-year-old will add some creativity on the powerplay and that way, Myers will get a helping hand.
The top six now consists of Leopold, Myers, Steve Montador, Craig Rivet, Andrej Sekera and Chris Butler, as the latter two were struggling for a consistent roster position last year. Lindy Ruff didn't mind dressing seven rearguards for matches and the obvious choice for that spot next season would be Mike Weber, the holder of 23 games played in the National Hockey League. Equipped with a new qualifying offer from the Sabres, he's expected to hop aboard because his talents differ from that of the remaining defensemen.
A younger version of Brooks Orpik, Weber is an aggressive skater who closes opponents down with his checks and meets the height/size regulations for a typical bruising defenseman. The other candidate would be Marc-Andre Gragnani, whose versatility and powerplay expertise might delete concerns of another special teams collapse such as the one during the 2010 playoffs. Myers is in need of a new partner to work with and either of these two will fancy that task. According to a poll distributed by Sabres Edge, Leopold is the favorite for this assignment and shockingly, Weber was second with 21 per cent of the votes.
Each member of the starting six can post 20-plus points, even Rivet for that matter, but Tallinder and Lydman were equally efficient without compromising themselves defensively. Butler and Sekera are unproven in their own end and will have to shape up notably to replace their predecessors. The hunger Weber and Gragnani maintain to crack the line-up will have them looking over their shoulders. There's offense available from this back line; it's the guarding of the net which appears faulty and Willie Mitchell's presence would be an appropriate fail-safe as he remains on the open market. Darcy Regier may want to think about that.
Decisions are awaiting Ruff such as the defensive pairings, especially for Myers. What kind of look will the powerplay and penalty-kill feature after the departures of Tallinder and Lydman? Will Leopold deliver the offensive goods at a doable rate? Can Butler and Sekera finally achieve consistency in their efforts and will Weber or Gragnani pressure them with their tryouts? Is age an issue with Rivet and Montador, particularly for their way of conducting business?
These are all reasonable questions that deserve wise answers.