One thing I didn't want to see the Sabres do was go and bring back Daniel Briere, not because I don't like him, but I don't like him at this stage in his career for this team. Bringing him back would have been a great PR move for the Sabres, but the future of this team is in 2016 right now and I don't think Daniel Briere has much left to give and I think he's on his last legs. Honestly, the only former Sabre I would ever want back at the right price would be Brian Campbell, granted at the right price because Campbell can help any team with the huge minutes he can log.
Damien Brunner: I'm very surprised Brunner is going to hit free agency, and personally I wont be surprised if he leaves Detroit for more money and a bigger opportunity with more playing time. Damien Brunner is my top free agent target.
If the Sabres plan on dealing Thomas Vanek and Drew Stafford, Brunner would be a great option to replace them. He has top six ability and tremendous skill, and he can play all 3 forward positions, he's listed as a center but he's primarily a right wing. He also is a great asset on the power play and can possess the puck. He had 12 goals and 14 assists last year in 44 games averaging around 15 min/game in Detroit playing the 2nd to 3rd line minutes. He's also frequently used in shootouts last season. Defensively he's not horrible, but there is room for improvement.
Why would Detroit let Brunner walk? Ken Holland does not overpay for free agents by any means, i'm sure money is an issue. The emergence of top tier prospects Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar is another issue. These guys need to play eventually.
Brunner would be the prime example of player the rebuilding Sabres should take a look at. Not an older has been type player like Briere or LeCavlier, but a guy who's relatively young, with skill and upside who could flourish in a larger role with another team and granted it was only for 1 year, he's coming from a team that has a lot of guys that have won before and know what it takes to win and has spent his time learned from Henrik Zetterberg. Coming into an even younger Sabres locker room, I think the experience he gained in Detroit last year could be a great influence on this team.
My gut feeling says however that with former Red Wing's GM Jim Nill in Dallas, I would not be stunned if he stole Brunner from the Red Wings and ends up playing for Lindy Ruff.
Stalberg is another type of player I'd love to see the Sabres target. Primarily used on the 3rd line for the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks, he's known for his blinding speed. Like Brunner, he's also 27, and has plenty of untapped potential that could be reached on a rebuilding team like Buffalo where he could likely walk into a bigger role. In a league where puck poessision is key, it happens to be one of the strengths of his game.
Victor Stalberg was possibly the most effective forechecker on the roster Blackhawks last year. His board play is great and only getting better, and his 162 CORSI rating was 3rd best on the team while he had the 2nd best CORSI/60. When he is on the ice, the Hawks have the puck, because no one can take it from him. He brings a "electricity" on the ice when he has the puck that this team hasn't had in a while.
I think at best he could be a really good second liner for the Sabres as a ceiling, and at worst he would be a 3rd liner who can get you some solid production from that spot, possibly 15 to 20+ goals, and will generate tons of scoring chances because of his speed alone.However Stalberg doesn't come without some risk though. His playoff performance was atrocious. While Bryan Bickell made his next contract off his playoff performance in Dustin Penner fashion, Stalberg hurt his value for his poor play when it's valued the most.
Having said that, Stalberg still has upside, and still will come at a decent price come free agency. He could be one of the best value guys out there and for the 2-3 million range on a likely short term 2 to 3 year deal. He's a gamble, but I think it's a gamble worth taking. He's explosively fast, coming off a Stanley Cup win, will help the Sabres puck possesion stats, and he's also defensively responsible. He'd have a role on the team on way or another, and I value guys who have been apart of Cup winning teams.
When you look at the Blackhawks roster from their previous cup winning team, Troy Brouwer, Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg, Andrew Ladd etc.....they've all gone on to bigger roles with other teams and have done exceptionally well. It's all downhill after you win the Cup, and we'll slowly start to see key guys off the Hawk's roster get moved or let go for Cap reasons. Round 2 of the Hawks Cup Castoffs has started with Dave Bolland, and the next one could be Victor Stalberg. Im all for bringing him to Buffalo.
Adams is 36, but he's a career role player, primarily as a defensive penalty killing specialist. He's another guy who has won before and that's a plus to have on a young team like Buffalo's. Craig Adams led Penguins forwards in 2013 with 2:39 played per game while the team was short-handed (and 3:34 SH TOI/game in the playoffs). He’s been a key cog in what’s been a Top 5-10 PK unit league-wide for the past four seasons. He eats up tough PK minutes and puts his body at risk blocking shots, and Adams has been an excellent player on that unit for Pittsburgh in his time there. He’s smart to angle off the puck and get his stick in correct shooting/passing lanes, capable along the boards at working to win puck battles and makes simple and effective zone clears when he gets the chance. You also get plenty of bang for the buck with Craig Adams as he was second statistically among forwards in overall blocked shots (37) and in hits (107) despite being logging 4th line minutes. He was very solid in his role as a grinding 4th line checker. Adams has also played 292 of the last 294 regular season games since the start of the 2009-10 season, he’s been incredibly durable and tough to keep being ready to make the lineup.
Craig Adams would be a solid pickup for the Sabres 4th line and penalty killing unit which was atrocious and would be an excellent mentor for the kids at a very cheap price.
Rob Scuderi: For a defense that’s young, vulnerable, and looking for a steady, stay-at-home mentor, Rob Scuderi is the man for the job. Scuderi has two Stanley Cup Championships under his belt with the Kings and the Penguins and played a big role on both of them logging in big important minutes.
sounds nuts to bring a 34 year old to a rebuild job, but with Scuderi's Cups under his belt, I am guessing security and financial reasons will take precedent at this stage in his career just like in Mike Ribiero's case.
The reason I am interested in Scuderi is because I am looking for a top 4 defenseman who I can put with Tyler Myers, who has been largely inconsistent since the departure of Henril Tallinder. Since Hank and Lydman both left, Myers has been ask to shoulder a ton of weight for this team and has struggled at times. A veteran presence to put next to Myers, who also has two Stanley Cup rings with the ability to log important minutes would be huge in a mentor role for the 6'8 towering defenseman.
With Myers, the Sabres seem open to trading him, but his value is at a low point right now. He's a risk for any team, including the Sabres. Personally i'd lean towards keeping him because if he goes to another team and explodes like Chara did when he left the Islanders, it will not look good for the Sabres organization, instead it will help paint the Sabres as an "avoid playing hockey here" place.
If the Sabres are going to be all in on Myers and his upside, then this team will need a someone to pair with him.
Cleary is the last guy for me to mention. I know it sounds a little contradictory to like the idea of bringing in Cleary and not Briere, but I just really dont think Briere has much quality hockey left in him for a guy who is an offense only player who if he can't score for you he has no value.
He’s coming off a five-year, $14 million contract, and made a solid case for his value in the playoffs, when he finished second on the team with 10 points, ahead of Pavel Datsyuk. His next contract is more about length than money, as he's reportedly looking for 3 years and 9-10 million.
Cleary is 34, and is by no means the answer to any of the Sabres serious problems for their core group of players, but he's the kind of guy that would be great for a young locker room and provide plenty of leadership in the process along with Steve Ott.
Danny Cleary is a hard working, crash the net, two way forward who does a lot of thing great, but isn't necessarily flashy. He also a front net presence on the top 6 and powerplay units. He can buy time for some guys like Zemgus Girgensens, Justin Bailey, and JT Compher who all might someday flourish in a similar role with the Sabres as the hard working, do a lot of things well type player in the top 6 or top 9. But most importantly he is an outstanding penalty killer, and leader who can play on a top line as a front net crasher, a second line, or a checking line. He also has value on the powerplay in front of the net as well.
With the collection of kids the Sabres have, it would be bad for the Sabres kids get rushed into the NHL even on a young team, plus when they get here, somebody needs to teach these guys how to be professionals in the league and a guy like Cleary could help out in this department. I dont know if Cleary wants to be a solid veteran on a rebuilding team, but he would still be a nice player for the locker room.