I guess I am a true Buffalo fan where I believe every year we try to make a legitimate run to the postseason and in feeling that way, here are some interesting players that I wonder are on the Sabres radar. These players I selected are what I consider interesting for our future, and are more than welcome to add some other players into this discussion
UFA for the 13-14 Season;
We still need a 2nd line center since I don't think Ennis is the answer, I don't think it's a good idea to throw Grig in that highly responsible role(he can play 3rd line this season if Rolston feels he is up to it) so i'm interested in grabbing Ribiero, but who knows if he will leave Washington since they were a pretty solid squad last year.
Scuderi, Schultz and Whitney are all big solid Dman that are available for signing and at least one of them can make a serious dent into a legitimate run to the post season. Schultz was just bought out so he could be pretty darn cheap and Whitney/Scuderi are both over 30..I think these older guys can provide a lot of leadership to our young defensive core, especially are our two new big boys who could take over one day from these guys.
Notable RFA Players;
Alex Pietrangelo - One of many studly defenders in St Louis, and arguably their better version of our Tyler Myers..this is a huge stretch for any team to be able to get this guy but they have Stewart as well for RFA and following seasons owing contracts to Schwartz and Tarasenko..Bouwmeester if he stays also will need a new contract for him..I more or less see this as a style of trade for Vanek if he is determined to leave Buffalo, and the Blues have no real scorers and will definitely have to throw a player of this magnitude at Darcy for this to work
Blake Wheeler - Our biggest weakness other than a shutdown center is who is going to play RW? Stafford is showing that he can't be counted on and we can't yet throw top6 responsibility to Flynn/Armia so i'm thinking this is an opportunity for us to grab Wheeler. He is doing pretty well since he left Boston for WPG and is a big solid forward that could compliment a Vanek/Hodgson line. WPG does have tons of cap room right now (25mil) but they also have lots of players with expiring contracts ( http://www.capgeek.com/jets ), most notably Bogosian who will definitely require a lot of money if they want him to stay. WPG also just barely missed the playoffs this year and with their huge fanbase and 'loudest' arena in the NHL, I can see ownership making a splash to insure they make it this season. I am not sure what we could offer other than an offer sheet, draft picks or maybe an Ennis/Leino/Stafford combination could sweeten the deal for them.
Magnus Paajarvi - EDM only have 10 mil in cap room this season and Gagner and Paajarvi are their most notable players needing a new contract, but next year they are going to have to pay Smyth/RNH/Schultz's if they hope to make a legitimate postseason run, as well as Dubnyk if he is to be their goaltender..so in my eyes someone has got to give and Paajarvi could be it, I could see us submitting offer sheet or a payload of Leino's contract to soften the burden on EDM to be able to grab this kid..he could easily be our 2nd/3rd LW for years to come.
Players with ~1 Year Remaining
I know Stastny is overpaid and I think he won't see more than 5 mil after this contract(but what do I really know?) but he like Ribiero fills our 2nd line center role until Larsson/Grig are able to take over 2nd/3rd line duties(or whoever else our future holds) and I like him as well. I think we could get him cheap because his role on the Avs has just been dramatically reduced by Mackinnon and i'm sure he would like to go somewhere he could actually play minutes.
Kessel is of course a huge stretch and would depend if he wants to stay and if they keep Phaenuf and the countless other players that are due for money, notably Bernier/Reimer/Kadri/Franson--depending on the moves they make he may be available and I couldn't tell you for what. We got picks/extra goalie and countless others but he would take over that #1 RW spot until we got rid of him, he is probably in the top5 across the league for best #1 RW.
Kulemin would also be interesting if we don't get Wheeler and Stafford continues to be useless, we would need a #2/#3 depending on Armia and he could step in tomorrow and take that role. His price to me doesn't seem that high but who knows what he would want.
Downie is a young-tough power forward playing for the Avs but came from TB and I think his style could fit in if we don't get a Kulemin/Wheeler as well..his price is cheap which could mean he stays with the Avalanche but he would definitely fit on the top9 in the RW spot.
Orpik/Girardi/Meszaros are all stretches..Orpik could want to leave if he wants to get paid and maybe he's interested in coming back to the Buffalo area (went to school in Amherst) and he's definitely a veteran that would cement this team into a playoff run..I don't think Girardi will leave NYR but if he does wow we could definitely use him on the Sabres.
Not sure how to end this, but if the Sabres are interested in making this a re-tool instead of a rebuild, these are the guys i'm hoping we go after