Well folks, the Great UFA Purge of 2014 brought quite a bit of drama to Sabre Nation. The last pieces of the old 'Core', other than the ol' cockroach that is Drew Stafford, have been expunged. Tim Murray took a firm, if not strangling, grip on the front office. No question who's in charge now. It's a new day.
That day, unfortunately, looks like one from Mad Max. Everything in ruins, flattened like a pancake, radiation transforming the Sabres roster into a collection of career AHL'ers, underachievers, un-achievers, and teenagers. Oh, and Leino. Yikes.
Going to the pole, this year's iteration of the Sabres has the kind of roster you'd get with an expansion team in Sega NHL Hockey, where everyone's grades were in the single digits, it looked like your whole team was skating underwater, and Sylvain Turgeon was your best player.
Here's what YOUR 2014 BFLO Sabres line-up might look like by the end of the year (avert your eyes!!!):
Stafford – Ennis – Leino
Conacher – CoHo – Cstew
D'Ago – Z – Mitchell
Flynn – Foligno – Ellis
Ehrhoff – Klesla
Myers – Webs
McBain – Tallinder
Ewwww. So, now with a 6 point lead and a roster than would struggle to compete with the Amerks, BFLO is on a glide path to the #1 overall pick (lottery results notwithstanding). So what's the plan? Here's mine:
STEP ONE: Secure Your Position.
Murray's refugee from the cast of Apollo 13 look plays well. All he needs is a short-sleeve dress shirt with pocket protector. His general disgruntlement in all sorts of interviews I find weirdly endearing – such a change from the carefree, say nothing style DR used to employ. But he's got a Ted Nolan problem. Ted's a LaFontaine guy. And as much as Nolan's 'matured', I don't think he can help himself. He's going to do or say something that will jeopardize his extension, which gives Murray the opening to force him out. Which he does. Girgensons likely will not be happy, but Murray's now got complete control over operations.
Everyone assumed he'd make a deal at the deadline with Uncle Bryan. He didn't. Everyone's assuming Murray will hire one of his old cronies from his Ottawa/Binghamton days. He won't. Until it's said otherwise, I'm sticking with my original plan of hiring Tony Granato away from the Pens, and have him bring Billy Guerin for some player cred. Also, add Mike Grier to the coaching roster. I also move Teppo up to Asst Director of Hockey Ops, give him a sense of how the organization works at a management level – he strikes me as a really smart guy, and I want to keep him on board.
STEP THREE: The Draft.
First thing you need to know is, what are the NYI going to do? Well, since somehow they did not obtain a single 1st in this draft despite dealing both Vanek and MacDonald, they've got to utilize their pick THIS year simply due to the Devil You Know principle. Right? But wait. It's Garth Snow. Maybe, he's thinking that they could pull a total rebuild around Tavares [more on that in another Fanpost] and market McDavid to the masses as they move into Barclays? So because its the Isles, they choose to turn the pick over this year. Lovely. Second, StL rides the Miller/Ott train to the WCF; kicks in the BFLO condition that gives BFLO the '14 1st, albeit at #28.
So BFLO goes into the Draft with #1, #5, #28, #30, #38.
But there are plenty of players in the pipeline. In fact, I'm bumping up against my maximum contracts number! So I don't need a lot of picks. I need players. Top flight players. And I learned a lot from all the deadline chatter. First off, there is a very hot market for Ehrhoff. Now, one thing you hear about is his recapture penalty. And its potentially bad...$10M bad. Well, if I was a 30+ year old German D-Man, who the organization didn't want to retire b/c it would crush their cap, would I want to have him around a historically bad series of teams and hope he'd want to stick it out until he was 35 or more to enjoy the fruits of the labors? Or would you send him somewhere that he can compete – maybe for a Cup, maybe not – in a system that caters to his style and is in desperate need of a player like him? I'd say the latter. DET should want a piece, TB and BOS should as well. But I'm going to move Ehrhoff to ANA in a blockbuster deal.
Ehrhoff, Petersen, #5 → Gibson, Vatanen, Souray, and #11.
ANA was reportedly danging Vatanen at the deadline. And they need to clear Souray off their books. But Gibby's the premier goaltending prospect in hockey. They're not going to give him up cheap. As as nice a player as Ehrhoff is, I'm sure ANA would be willing to sit tight on Gibby if just offered the Deutschland D-Man. So BFLO adds a very sweet sweetener. Sabres now have their goaltender of the future and a young puck mover to pair with the up and comers. ANA now has the following D: Fowler/Beauchemin/Allen/Sbisa/Lindholm/Ehrhoff/Fistric. Nice. Well set for another run at the Cup in '15.
BFLO now trades #11, #28, #38 to get to #7.
So they select: #1: Reinhart, #7 Dal Colle, and #31 Demko. Forwards now totally juiced. With Gibson, Ullmark, Petersen, and Demko the 'tenders pipeline is now full. And then some.
STEP FOUR: Free Agency.
Suddenly Murray looks like the Statue of Liberty, 'give me your tired, your poor, your downtrodden masses' as all your worthless UFAs come looking for a payday. But the sad fact is, the cap floor is a way off. So you do what you gotta do.
Rumor has it that the Cap may not reach as high as $71m, but rather, due to the decline of the Canadian dollar, closer to $69m is the right number. With that in mind, the cap floor is probably around $53m if I do my math right - which is unlikely.
As BFLO enters free agency, it has salary amounting to something in the range of $30m. Wowzers.
First, we re-sign our RFAs: Ennis goes to $4.1/3 year bridge contract, D'Agostini goes up to $950K/1, lets assume Conacher performs well enough to give him $1.15/2, Foligno gets a $1.45/3, I up Ruhwedel to a $1.275/3. Vatanen is an RFA - we give him a bridge deal, $1.65/2.
Then, our UFAs: Tallinder we re-up at same price ($3.375/1) purely for leadership purposes.
Now, for the open market. BFLO is still well under the cap. They have a couple spots to fill. So Murray dips back into his OTT days, and signs up Milan Michalek for $5.33/2 (overpay!) and Granato uses his PIT connections to bring local boy Lee Stempniak on board for $3.35/3.
To the raucous applause of fans everywhere and a parade, Leino is a compliance buyout.
That puts BFLO just under $56m. Which should get them over the cap floor by a couple million.
STEP FIVE: 2014-15:
The terrifying opening day roster for YOUR BFLO Sabres:
Your AMERKS Roster:
In the CHL: Baptiste, Reinhart, Dal Colle, Zadorov, Bailey, Locke
In the NCAA: Compher, Fasching, Hurley, Florentino, Demko
In Europe: Ullmark, Possler
STEP SIX: 2015 Trade Deadline:
BFLO has oodles of guys to move for assets: Stew/Stafford/Tallinder/Mitchell/D'Ago/Neuvirth/Enroth. Could also move Michalek. No big names, but mid-level prospects and 2nds and 3rds. Let's say they move Stew, Mitchell, Stafford and Enroth for assets.
STEP SEVEN: End of Year Roster:
I'm starting to see the rebuild turning...
2015 Off Season: Likely, at least 3 forwards leave via FA (Conacher, Michalek, D'Ago, Flynn), Tallinder likely retires, and Souray/Weber/Neuvirth are also FAs, possibly receiving lovely parting gifts and a copy of the GM For A Day home game.
There are some very appealing UFAs on the market: Toews/Kane, Bobby Ryan, Krejci, Dubinsky, even Spezza. I would throw a ton of money at Bobby Ryan, honestly. With the possibility of McDavid, Eichel, or Barzal in the mix, and one of those big FAs being signed...plus you slot in some guys like Zadorov, Catenacci, maybe Dal Colle into the line-up...now you're got yourself something. Something big. The rebuild ends in 2016.