This year the Sabres are entering free agency with a surplus of wingers already on the books. Even though wing is definitely below center on the priority list and most likely below defenseman as well, we're still going to take a look at the top wingers available in free agency.
In order to make it more interesting, however, I'll give you two scoring wingers and three grinding wingers the Sabres might be interested in. Here we go:
Ville Leino: Here's one of our scoring wingers - the 27-year old Leino is a playmaking wing more than a pure scorer, though he still managed 19 goals last season, and has been impressive for Philly in the playoffs over the past two years. Who knows what Philly will do this offseason after what they've done over the past two weeks, but their cap space is limited and Leino will be looking for a raise this offseason. Leino is still coming in to his own and his versatility and playmaking ability would be prized by many teams.
Scottie Upshall: Upshall is a Patrick Kaleta-type player, not only in his fiery, trash-talking style of play, but in the fact that you'll probably hate him if he's not on your team. The 27-year old winger is a tough grinder who won't back down from anyone and isn't afraid to go into the corners. His salary could be an issue, especially for a guy who's an inconsistent scorer and sometimes has trouble staying on the ice. See, he really is another Kaleta - the question is, do the Sabres want that?
Drew Miller: The Sabres have the chance to make a dream come true for the Miller family, or at least to make their travel plans easier. Reuniting the Miller brothers would give Buffalo a sound defensive forward who can kill penalties and comes from a winning tradition in Detroit. The younger Miller brother is just 27 (apparently everyone is) and has a great work ethic, no surprise. The downside is that he won't give you much offensive punch and doesn't weigh much more than his brother Ryan, clocking in at a skinny 178 for a guy who stands 6'2''. Still, he'd be a cheap plug for the bottom line and would surely provide NHL writers and broadcasters with a nice story whenever the Sabres come to town.
Erik Cole: If you want more offensive punch from your winger than Upshall or Miller would provide, then try Erik Cole's 26 goals and 52 points on for size. Cole is the power forward that most Sabres fans wish Drew Stafford would be, as he hits anything that moves and marries a great work ethic to solid scoring instincts. The issue with the 31-year old Cole is injuries, as his gritty, hard-hitting style of play has taken its toll on his body. Still, he's coming off a career year and has the rare ability to add both toughness and offense to whichever team is willing to take the risk.
Joel Ward: We'll finish off this post with a suggestion that was brought up yesterday: Joel Ward. The 30-year old winger is coming off of a great postseason for Nashville, and is the type of hard-skating two-way forward that Lindy Ruff loves. Ward can play special teams on both ends, can line up at either wing position, and is an excellent locker room presence. He's not going to lay the lumber as much as you might like for a 6'1'', 218lbs player, but his play style is described by his SBNation site as "industrious," and that sounds like just what I want out of a bottom six winger.
So there you have it - five players I think the Sabres could target in various capacities come July 1. Sound off in the comments about what you think, the absence of one Michael James Grier, and your own personal choices.