Buffalo Sabres fans everywhere are very excited about this offseason, with the promise of Terry Pegula's checkbook bringing dreams of signing big-name free agents like Brad Richards or prying away that prized restricted free agent with a killer offer sheet. This post is not meant to temper those big dreams, but just to give a clearer picture of exactly what lies ahead in the summer and remind everyone that the Sabres currently have a lot of holes left to fill this summer, and finite resources with which to do it.
Buffalo has the sixth-fewest players currently under contract in the entire NHL with 12, which is more than only Tampa Bay, St. Louis, Carolina, Florida, and Montreal, who has just 9. The team must dress at least 20 players for a game, but is allowed to carry up to 23 on its active roster, so we have between 8 and 11 spots to fill (much closer to 11) and those can be filled in one of three ways:
- The most obvious way to fill a hole is to re-sign the player who was there before, and the Sabres have an advantage in that department because many of their former players left without a contract are restricted free agents. The Sabres currently have 7 RFAs, including Jhonas Enroth, Andrej Sekera, Chris Butler, Mike Weber, Marc-Andre Gragnani, Nathan Gerbe, and the big one, Drew Stafford.
- The next easiest way to fill a hole is to have it be filled by a player from Portland. There are a few youngsters who should be competing for starting spots next season, including Mark Mancari, Luke Adam, Dennis Persson, Matt Ellis, and Paul Byron.
- The final way would be to bring in a player from another team, either through free agency or a trade.
In order to field a complete and competitive roster, the Sabres will need to use their cap space wisely -- the team should have somewhere around $21 million in free cap space to allocate to 8-11 new or returning players.
Again, this post is not supposed to dampen your excitement for the offseason, nor is it meant to elicit a "No sh*t, Sherlock" reaction (though I'm sure it will for some of you.) It's just here to remind you that this team has more holes to fill than 24 other NHL clubs do, and those other clubs are trying to get the best players they can, too.
That being said, I'm sure you guys can find creative ways to split that $21 million and still get the players this team needs.