With the Buffalo Sabres officially confirming that they have used their second and final compliance buyout on defensemen Christian Ehrhoff, the team now faces a crossroads for the 2014-15 season. They have a team that is projected to be very terrible and also very young, which means that at some point they are going to have to find some veteran leadership. The major problem with that? The team is bordering on Islanders territory in their ability to attract any sort of quality of free agent.
Tim Murray suggested this much a couple weeks ago in an interview with the Sabres website. The team is not going to get the quality free agents even with the ability to throw boat loads of money at the player. The quality of the players that the team is going to find are going to be the journeymen defenders that just happen to be out there. In the short term, the older the better.
With Christian Ehrhoff gone, the oldest on the roster is Mike Weber, who is 26 years old, and knowing his level of play over the past couple of seasons isn't going to be the guy that most defenders look up to. Tyler Myers is 23 years old and two years into the major extension he signed. That contract has become somewhat of an albatross as well over those two seasons, but his play has started to turn around with Ted Nolan as head coach.
The team only has two true defenders under contract heading into the season in Myers and Weber. Guys like Ristolainen, Zadorov, and Pysyk are going to get some serious ice time this season, but is it really fair to give all of them 20 minutes a night for 82 games? The team needs to find a couple of mid-level veteran defenders to soak up ice time and show the young guys a couple tricks. For their trouble in coming to Buffalo, they are going to get a boatload of money in a one or two year contract.
There are guys out there that fit this prototype. Henrik Tallinder will need another contract and has shown Murray what he can do. Local boy Brooks Orpik is a free agent as well and fans clamored for him the last time his contract came up. Neither of these guys are great players anymore, but that's the type of player the Sabres will get by overpaying them for a year or two - older, slightly past-their-prime guys looking for one last big payday.
When this contract is signed well after the free agent period, don't be surprised or outraged. Accept it for what it is, the blueprint for trying to get the first overall pick in 2015 as well.