I decided to jump on the “GM for a Day” bandwagon and give my two cents on how I would re-shape the Sabres front office and personnel. The most popular idea when it comes to the future of the Sabres is to try and assemble a roster that’s so bad that it gives you Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. I don’t believe in that philosophy mainly because of how unpredictable the NHL is. The Sabres will be forced to add players because of the cap floor increase next year, which in return will make them more competitive possibly bringing them out of the bottom two teams in the league. The key is to add pieces that will make them competitive down the road and adding veterans that help develop the influx of talent that will be inserted into the lineup over the coming years. If the team is still a bottom two team so be it, if not other ways need to be explored to build the team in case the Sabres don’t win the sweepstakes.
General Manager- Jim Benning
Assistant General- Scott Bradley
Director of Amateur Scouting- Kevin Devine
Director of Pro Personnel- Kevin Prendergast
Head Coach- Willie Desjardins
The Sabres likely need to add 2 more faces to the Front Office with an Assistant GM and GM while also better defineing their front office. Maybe I’m the only one who thinks this, but they haven’t looked very organized in the past having Darcy and Devine listed as GM and Assistant GM while having no one listed as Director of Amateur Scouting or Director of Pro Personnel. To get the ball rolling Benning would win the three horse race for GM, with Mike Futa and Brad Treliving being the other candidates. Treliving would be a great choice as he oversees Amateur Scouting and Pro Personnel while also serving as there AHL affiliates GM. Two problems however, first being he’s only 44 with seven years’ experience as an Assistant GM. It would be a considerable risk especially when factoring in Lafontaine having limited experience in the Front Office as well. The second problem being you may not be able to interview or hire him until the season is over with the amount he does for Phoenix. Futa would be another gamble with his limited experience. Futa is also 44 and has spent parts of his career in the Front Office and as Assistant Coach in the OHL while currently being Co-Director of Amateur Scouting with the Kings. In the end he doesn’t get the nod because of the lack of experience. Benning is named the next General Manager mainly because he’s a safer choice than Futa and Treliving. He has experience in both Pro Personnel and Amateur Scouting and comes from an organization that’s been built from smart trades and good draft classes.
Scott Bradley gets hired to take over as the Assistant General Manager for a lot of the same reasons Jim Benning is hired. He might not leave Boston as he’s spent 21 years there and would probably be offered Benning’s job. In the end he leaves to follow Benning and further develop his resume with another team. The continuity he has with Benning would be great asset with the Front Office turnover. In Boston he’s spent 5 of his last years 16 years as director of player personnel and the other 11 as Director of Amateur Scouting. He’d be a perfect fit as an assistant to Benning and LaFontaine on all matters. A lot of people want Mike Futa to be the Assistant GM but doesn’t get hired for multiple reasons. The first is he’d be another new face added mid-season. The Front Office needs to be on the same page with the trade deadline getting closer and the majority of scouting taking place now. Another reason is having very limited experience in Pro Personnel with his only experience coming from the OHL. The final reason being he most likely wouldn’t accept this position. He’s already been interviewed for Buffalo’s and Calgary’s GM position so likely wouldn’t take a mostly lateral move to a rebuilding organization with whom he has no connections with. In LA he’s developing a solid reputation on a cup contending team and most likely won’t leave without a significant promotion.
The final 2 positions have Kevin Devine taking a slight demotion and Kevin Prendergast taking a promotion. Devine might leave the organization after the season after being passed up as the GM and losing his title of Assistant GM, but he would likely stay until after the draft with no other employment options. Hopefully he chooses to stay for the foreseeable future, he’s done very well since heading the draft and even better since Terry Pegula re-shaped the scouting department. Prendergast is a 30 year veteran of hockey serving as high as Assistant GM for the Edmonton Oilers at one point. He’d be a great fit as Director of Pro Personnel and even know he was just hired recently he and Devine help keep some continuity in the organization.
Nolan makes a strong case to remain as the head coach but at the end of the season he’s relieved in favor of Willie Desjardins. This may surprise some but Desjardins is name that will receive more and more attention once the season ends. In his first year as the Head Coach of Cedar Park, the Dallas Stars AHL affiliate, he was named Coach of the Year. Whom he chooses to hire as assistants would be up to him. All reports suggest Teppo Numinem has done well with the organization and should remain in some form if not behind the bench.
In Season Trades
To Buffalo- Brandon Saad
To Chicago- Christian Ehroff, Tyler Ennis
Some people may think this is giving up to much, but Buffalo can afford to part with Ehroff with the amount of young Defenseman they have. While Ennis is somewhat productive they need a upgrade over what Ennis brings to the lineup. It would be very hard to acquire Saad, he’s off to a great start in his first full NHL season and almost made the Olympic team. But Chicago has so much invested in forwards they can’t afford another who will go for possibly 5 million down the road even with the cap increase. Ehroff gives Chicago a high caliber defenseman at a very low cap hit and Ennis will be a solid fit into their forwards and will probably never require a cap hit that hits 4 million. This deal gives Chicago more cap flexibility in year where Saad, Kane, and Towes deal were set to expire and where Crawfords extension has kicked in.
To Buffalo- 2014 1st, 2015 3rd, Jonas Hiller, Stephan Noesen
To Anaheim- Ryan Miller, Matt Moulson
Anaheim already has a cup contending team, this team deal would put them firmly as the favorites with Chicago in the west. This deal ultimately gets done because of the cap flexibility that Anaheim has and the belief that they can make an offer to re-sign Miller at the end of the year. Moulson at the very least serves as a rental to a Cup contending team. The Sabres on the other hand add even more draft choices while acquiring two quality players. Hiller is good veteran goalie who is due to be UFA following the season giving the Sabres the flexibility to head a different direction if they wanted after the season. Noesen was the secondary piece Anaheim got in the Bobby Ryan trade but is a talented player in his own right. He’s out for this year with a knee injury or he could’ve been called up and playing with Anaheim by now. Noesen is another big skilled winger that adds scoring the Sabres desperately need.
In the end Ott and Tallinder are kept because they serve more value to the team going forward than what they fetch at the deadline. Tallinder may bring back a third round pick if we’re lucky or he can stay as veteran presence along the blue line. He won’t fetch the same return as Leopold or Regher because he’s at the end of his career maybe only playing one or two more years and he isn’t as good as either. Just because Nashville overpaid for Gaustad doesn’t mean someone will do the same for Ott at the deadline. Ott could bring multiple picks or lower end prospects but at the end of the day his greatest value is signing him to an extension. Buffalo’s main goal is to add scoring with size going forward. The league is no longer the way it was post lockout when hooking and holding was being taken out of the game. Noesen and Saad are both big forwards with a scoring touch that would fit well into Buffalos long term plans. Hiller is an obvious downgrade from Miller but is a great stop gap while the organization further develops their young goaltenders. While the organization picks up 2 more picks in the Anaheim trade, it’s not the main objective to acquire more picks through the season. They already have one of the deepest systems in the league before the next two drafts take place which will include 6 more 2nd round picks and three 1st round picks, not including my deal. The priority is to try and add young talent already in the NHL or on the cusp of the NHL. Buffalo will be in a position to pay these types of young players with the amount of cap space they’ll have available to them where other teams may not.
The Draft(Based on Current Standing, Devils have no 1st)
#1- Sam Reinhardt/6-1 185 Center, Kootenay
The biggest no brainer of the off season. The Sabres need elite forwards and Reinhardt gives them that.
#29- Alex Tuch/6-4 213 C/RW, USNTDP
Huge forward that mostly projects as a wing. Tuch will most likely be a NHL player but how high he projects is up for debate. He could continue to develop his skill and be a thumper on a scoring line or be a big body on a bottom 6 line.
#30- Vladislav Kamenev/6-2 176 Center, Magnitigorsk
After taking a little bit safer of an option at 29 Buffalo swings for the fences at 30. Kamenev could develop into a top 2 center or never come to the NHL. But with all the picks the Sabres have accumulated they can afford to take a gamble here.
#46- Ryan Mantha/6-4 225 Defense, Sioux City
Almost took all forwards but decided to add one defenseman to keep strong core of Defenseman throughout their system. Manthas another hulking man that projects as a physical stay at home defenseman.
#52- Kevin Elgestal/6-1 176 RW, Frolunda
Skilled winger who will take some time to develop. If he does he could potentially be a top 6 guy who has size and can score.
This year’s draft is much weaker than last years. Boom or bust players like Elgestal and Kamenev would of most likely been considered 3rd rounder’s last year but in a weaker class might go in the second or late first because of their ceiling. The Sabres main goal in this draft is to find scoring and size and will have at least 4 picks to try and accomplish it. They’ll be fortunate enough to add scoring with their first pick with it likely being a top 2 pick but after that the scouting department will have their work cut out for them unless the Sabres can manage to get another top 15 pick.
Off Season Signings/Re-Signings
Brooks Orpik- 3 years- 13.5 million/4.5 cap hit
Henrik Tallinder- 1 year- 3.5 million/3.5 cap hit
Ryan Callahan- 6 years- 39 million/6.5 cap hit
Jonas Hiller- 3 year- 15 million/5 cap hit hit
Steve Ott- 4 year- 10.5 million/3.5 cap hit
Brendon Morrow- 2 year- 5 million/2.5 cap hit
David Moss- 3 years- 9 million/3 cap hit
Marcus Foligno- 2 years- 1.8 million/900k cap hit
Matt D’Agostini- 1 year- 700,000/700k cap hit
Other players like Omark, Sulzer, Ruwedhl will be brought to compete for roster spots but end up in the minors. The signings and re-signings show just the players who make the 23 man roster.
Lines(Cap Hit Next to Him)
Callahan/6.5 Hodgson/4.25 Girgenson/894,000
Sadd/764,000 Ott/3.5 Foligno/900,000
Moss/3 Larson/764,000 Morrow/2.5
Noesen/863,000 Kopeka/1 D’Agostini/700,000
Payroll-63,689,250 Cap Space- 17,410,750
This with 23 players against the cap according to cap geek. Their will likely be a couple more salaries that count towards the payroll with the new CBA. The culture change of the team continues with adding leaders Orpik and Morrow while getting rid of Leino and Stafford via compliance buyouts. Neither look like they want to be here and neither are anywhere close to being as productive as needed. Callahan is the big addition for the team going forward but it’s going to be expensive. He’ll have plenty of offers so Buffalo’s only hope will be to pay more than everyone because he’ll most likely want to be with a cup contender. David Moss is another veteran forward who brings size to the lineup along with a little offense. All the free agent additions are overpaid and with the exception of Callahan aren’t in the prime of their careers. But those will be the only type of players Buffalo will be able to acquire after finishing last in the league. They’ll also have to be overpaid to lure them here over a cup contender. Buffalo’s roster is now extremely veteran heavy with the majority of their young players staying in the juniors or AHL. Ristolainen and Zadorov are close to being NHL ready but neither of them will be 20 at the start of the season so their shouldn’t be a hurry to have them in the NHL. Grigorenko will be AHL eligible so he can start the season there with Joel Armia until either earns a spot in the NHL. Grigorenko should be on the team at some point as the Sabres will have a big need for offense down the middle. Reinhardt will play one more year in the juniors before making his leap to the NHL.
This team should be better offensively and defensively than the current team. However it lacks one of the world’s best goaltenders in Miller who has won the majority of the Sabres games by himself. This team most likely will be in the bottom 10 because it’s still lacking top end talent up front but has young pieces to build on. While they probably won’t get McDavid or Eichel with this team they’ll still have a chance with the Islanders pick.