Many Sabres fans were hoping that prized free agent forward Zach Parise would sign with the Buffalo Sabres within the first few days of July. If the Sabres landed prized free agent defenseman Ryan Suter, that would be icing on the cake. Both of these players signed with the Minnesota Wild on July 4th so Sabres fans are still waiting for the forward the team needs. But, the Sabres appeared to be bigger players than many expected though.
According to Elliotte Friedman of CBC Sports, the Buffalo Sabres are reported to have offered $100 million to each player.
But it's believed Buffalo also let both players know they would get $100 million apiece to dress for the Sabres. (Darcy Regier politely declined to comment.)
If the Sabres could have landed both players with $100 million contracts, those would be the largest contracts the Sabres would have signed a player to.
There are many what if's when looking at this situation, but the easiest one to start with is what would the team look like if the Sabres landed these two. It was reported that teams were informed that they were out of the running for each of these players on July 2nd, so let's freeze the roster at that point in time. The Sabres wouldn't have made many moves if they knew that they were still in the running for Parise and Suter because if they landed the players, they would have to assess their salary cap situation before making any more moves. What that would ultimately lead to is that in this snapshot, the Derek Roy trade hadn't happened yet.
Follow the jump for our look at the team's cap hit and what the lines may have looked like.
Team's Cap Hit
With two of the largest contracts that the Sabres would have ever signed, getting both players under the salary cap would have meant adding years to make the cap hit of the contract decrease. Since we don't know the actual term of the contracts offered to the players, for the ease of this analysis let's assume that both contracts were for the same time frame they signed with Minnesota, 13 years. That would give each player a cap hit of roughly $7.7 million dollars. If the team extended out the contract for two more years each, that would reduce the cap hits to $6.67 million.
Using Capgeek and recalculating out all of the transactions that have happened since July 2nd, the Sabres should have roughly had $12 million in cap space. The two contracts of Parise and Suter would have put the Sabres over by roughly $3.4 million. That would have meant the Sabres would have moved a couple of players out to make some room and the Derek Roy trade probably still would have happened, but it may have looked slightly different. It also didn't leave any space for the Sabres to resign their two restricted free agents, Tyler Ennis and Patrick Kaleta.
The Roster Makeup
The Sabres roster would have gotten a huge jolt at both ends of the ice with the additions of Parise and Suter. Starting with the forwards, Zach Parise probably would have slotted into the lineup on the first or second line, and with good friend Drew Stafford on the roster still, starting Parise with Stafford would probably ease the transition to start. That would mean breaking up the Ennis/Foligno/Stafford line that was so successful at the end of the season. Sticking Tyler Ennis between Parise and Stafford would keep most of that line intact though.
With Parise situated, keeping the Vanek/Hodgson/Pominville line together makes sense and those players could be shifted to the second line to keep much of the pressure off of them. Moving Parise meant that Foligno had to find a home, and sticking him with Roy, who remember still hasn't been traded yet, and Ville Leino might provide a little punch and physicality to two players that like the make plays with the puck. Unfortunately, that means that Nathan Gerbe gets shifted out of a decent line spot and plays on the fourth line. Here is how those lines look.
The defense for the Sabres would still be the logjam that it currently is, but the depth would be even greater. With the addition of Ryan Suter, pairing him with Robyn Regher would give the team the ultimate shutdown pair. From there, Tyler Myers could be paired with Christian Ehrhoff to give the Sabres an offensive option and Andrej Sekera would be paired with Jordan Leopold. That leaves Alexander Sulzer, Mike Weber, and others fighting to make the lineup or just make the team. With Brayden McNabb and TJ Brennan coming through the ranks in Rochester, the team would probably send off some defensive depth to try and get under the salary cap as well.
The Buffalo Sabres would have become one of the tougher teams to play in the Eastern Conference if they were able to make the major acquistions of the free agency period. Add on top of that the promise of young centers Zemgus Girgensons and Mikhail Grigorenko, the Sabres would have been setup for a few years as well. But, there are plenty more factors that play into player decisions than how much money a team throws at a player and in the end, playing in Buffalo just wasn't an option for the pair.