I wrote a version of this in April for this past offseason. I think we should start looking ahead now.
March 5, 2014 (Trade Deadline)
Buffalo Acquires: 1st Round Pick in 2014 & Mitchell Moroz, 40% Retained Salary of Miller
Edmonton Acquires: Ryan Miller
Calgary Acquires: Thomas Vanek
April 14, 2014 (Day After Last Game of Regular Season)
Fire General Manager Darcy Regier and Head Coach Ron Rolston
June 1, 2014
Name Rick Dudley General Manager
June 15, 2014
Name Scott Arniel Head Coach
June 20-26, 2014 (Re-Sign Phase)
Steve Ott: 4 Years/$16M
Tyler Ennis: 6 Years/$24M
Marcus Foligno: 3 Years/$9M
Jamie McBain: 2 Years/$4M
Chad Ruhwedel: 3 Years/$3M
Matt Hackett: 3 Years/$3M
Corey Tropp: 4 Years/$3.2M
Matt MacKenzie: 2 Years/$1.4M
Nick Crawford: 1 Year/$600K
June 27, 2014 (NHL Entry Draft)
Buffalo Acquires: Tomas Fleischmann
Florida Acquires: 2nd Round Pick in 2015 & Brayden McNabb
Buffalo Acquires: 2nd Round Pick in 2016
St Louis Acquires: Drew Stafford
Draft: Sam Reinhart (#1 Overall) & Nick Schmaltz (#15 Overall)
June 30, 2014
Compliance Buyout: Ville Leino
July 1, 2014
Sign Free Agent:
C-Paul Stastny: 7 Years/$50.75M
Fleischmann ($4.5M) - Hodgson ($4.25M) - Reinhart ($925K)
Ennis ($4M) - Stastny ($7.25M) - Girgensons ($925K)
Foligno ($3M) - Grigorenko ($925K) - Armia ($925K)
Ott ($4M) - Larsson ($763K) - Flynn ($637K)
Ehrhoff ($4M) - Myers ($5.5M)
Ristolainen ($925K) - Weber ($1.66M)
Pysyk ($870K) - McBain ($2M)
Enroth ($1.25M) - Hackett ($1M)
Kaleta ($1.25M), Tropp ($800K), Zadorov ($925K)
Rochester Americans (No Particular Order)
It has been talked about since November of 2011, when Ryan Miller for Bobby Ryan trade rumors arose out of the Buffalo air. After the lockout-shortened 2013 season, and especially after the Sabres dealt Captain Jason Pominville, the trade speculation surrounding the Olympic Goaltender has escalated to daily conversation around not just Buffalo but the entire National Hockey League. On or before March 5, 2014, Ryan Miller's days in Blue-and-Gold will be in his rear-view mirror. It has been recently reported by Pierre LeBrun that Edmonton is in fact on Miller's 8-team No-Trade list, however, if the Sabres continue to play the way they have this month (Which is more probable than possible), there is a very good chance he will waive his No-Trade to go to, shall we say, ANYWHERE but Buffalo. In this proposed trade, Buffalo gets a 1st Round Pick in 2014 (a given no matter where he is dealt) and prospect Mitchell Moroz. Moroz is a 6' 3", 215 pound brute who can also score. He currently has 15 points and 38 penalty minutes in 11 games with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League. Although he is not high on the prospect list for Edmonton, I like him.
As with Miller, Thomas Vanek trade rumors have been floating around the League for a while now. He has said recently that he has not ruled out signing in Buffalo, saying that he and his family love the city and the organization. Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda. If Thomas Vanek was committed to re-signing here, he would've done so already. When the Buffalo Sabres traded Jason Pominville, everyone knew a deal involving Vanek was almost inevitable. Also, the Pominville deal showed what kind of value Vanek would fetch. In this proposed trade, Buffalo gets a Conditional 2nd Round Pick in 2015(Becomes 1st if he re-signs), a 3rd Round Pick in 2016, Center Markus Granlund, and Left Winger Ben Hanowski. The 7th and 9th Ranked Flames prospects respectively, according to Hockey Prospectus, both project to be 2nd Line players. To this point, Granlund, 6' 0", 185 pounds, has played one AHL game with the Abbotsford Heat, registering an assist. In two seasons in the Finnish pro league, SM-Liiga, he has registered 64 points in 97 games. Hanowski, 6' 2", 210 pounds, currently leads the Heat with 5 points in 5 games, 4 of which are goals. The Conditional draft pick is only what I would agree to if I were Calgary's GM. If Vanek doesn't sign, I'm really screwed.
Locker Cleanout Day (April 14, 2014)
Locker Cleanout is always a disappointing day for 29 of the 30 teams in the NHL. For the Sabres, the spotlight won't be on the players, but on owner Terry Pegula. If my prediction comes to fruition, the Sabres will relieve Head Coach Ron Rolston of his duties and (finally) fire General Manger Darcy Regier. I liked the hiring of Rolston when the Sabres canned Ruff, but it just hasn't worked out over the two seasons he has been in command. He doesn't show emotion or concern, and has every recently gone out and had a "Dance-Off" with the players at a practice after a butt-whipping by Vancouver. As for Regier, this will be a glorious day in Buffalo. The 2013-14 season will mark his 16th season as General Manager. In that time span, including not making the playoffs this year, will be an 8-8 record of making the playoffs versus not. 4 of those times the Sabres did make the Conference Finals, and once, the Stanley Cup Finals. But there still is no Stanley Cup in Buffalo. 16 seasons and no Cup? Time to move on. Granted, Regier has history to be a good GM, scoring good returns for Kassian, Leopold, Regehr, and Pominville. However, it is time to try something new.
A New General Manager
To make amends with the disheartened Sabres fans, the Sabres will pull from their own history, hiring experienced executive and former Sabre Rick Dudley as General Manager. Currently an Assistant General Manager with Montreal, Dudley has proved his ability to be an effective GM in the National Hockey League. He started his Management career in 1998 when he was hired as GM by the Ottawa Senators. He was then "traded" to Tampa Bay where he filled the same capacity. While in Tampa Bay, he acquired NHL All-Star and Olympic Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin in a blockbuster deal. He also acquired Defenseman Dan Boyle from Florida for a fifth-rounder; Boyle would become Tampa's top Defenseman in their Cup run in 2004 (after Dudley was fired). After some time as an Assistant GM, he regained full-bird status in Atlanta in 2010. He immediately made an impact, making a blockbuster deal with Stanley Cup Champions Chicago to acquire Dustin Byfuglien (and 3 others) in a deal for 3 players and 2 draft picks. One week later he acquired Andrew Ladd from Chicago; Ladd would later become Captain.
I think Dudley is an essential piece of a big revamp the Sabres need.
The Third Coach in Four Years
Ron Rolston's time was short-lived, and rightfully so. After failing to improve the team when he replaced Lindy Ruff, Rolston has had an ugly start to the 2013-14 season. The team he is leading will not improve much this season, and I feel his leadership (or, possibly, a lack there of) is a part of that. His talent is developing young players; a talent with which he excelled as the Coach of Lake Superior State, Clarkson State, Harvard University, and Boston College at the collegiate level (11 seasons), the USA National Team Development Program for 7 seasons, and the Rochester Americans for 2 seasons. He cannot, at least right now, coach NHL players successfully.
Continuing with the trend of former Sabres players, I predict the Sabres will hire Scott Arniel as Head Coach. Arniel is currently an assistant coach with the New York Rangers, a position he has held in the past with Buffalo. He has previously been the Head Coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets before being fired just a year and a half into the job. He has also made the playoffs in four of the five years he served as a Head Coach in the American Hockey League.
2014 NHL Entry Draft
Incoming General Manager Rick Dudley will be busy on Draft Day.
Trading Miller and Vanek dropped the Sabres Cap Hit by $13.3 Million. The Sabres need some Salary, and some Veteran Scoring. I feel Tomas Fleischmann may be the answer. Fleischmann, currently with Florida, is a consistent 60 point scorer. Taking that into consideration, it will cost Buffalo a 2nd Round Pick (this one in 2015) and Defenseman Brayden McNabb. McNabb has been recently passed over on the Depth Chart by newcomers Chad Ruhwedel, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Nikita Zadorov. He really doesn't have a future in Buffalo, but I feel he is an NHL Defenseman.
That 2nd Round Pick will be recouped fast, however, as Buffalo will trade Drew Stafford to St Louis for theirs in 2016. Trading Stafford will be the last move to completely erase the old "Core 6" from recent Sabre years: Gaustad (Nashville), Roy (Dallas), Pominville (Minnesota), Miller (Edmonton), and Vanek (Calgary).
Assistant General Manager Kevin Devine, known for his Draft Skills, will also be busy, as Buffalo owns two 1st Round Picks: theirs (1st Overall) and Edmonton's (15th Overall). They will select Sam Reinhart and Nick Schmaltz.
Thank You, CBA, for Compliance Buyouts
Terry Pegula made sure to toss his money around when he took over as owner of the Sabres. On July 1, 2011, the Sabres signed highly sought-out forward Ville Leino to a 6-Year/$27 Million contract. Boy, was that a mistake with a capital "MISS". Leino has been an injury-prone, low-scoring player and a waste of $4.5 Million annually.
Hey, Buffalo Signed a Good Player
The Colorado Avalanche have a very interesting problem. Too Many Centers. On July 1, 2014, veteran Paul Stastny becomes a Free Agent. His production has not been up to his potential, so I think he will be passed on by most Cup-Contenders, especially with that $6.6 Million Cap Hit. While most teams that give him an offer will want to cut his pay, Buffalo can afford to over spend by a lot, having almost no big salaries. I think Stastny will be a good addition for Buffalo, bringing scoring ability, faceoff ability, and leadership.
I think the Future is bright for this team if they assemble something similar to what I have here. Will they make the Playoffs in 2014-15? Probably not. But they will be a whole lot closer than they will be this year. Will they become a consistent Cup Contender in 3-4 years? I think the answer to that is a resounding "YES!".