There are reports that Darcy Regier will be meeting with Larry Kelly the agent for Brian Campbell tomorrow in Ottawa. This is good news but does not mean that he will be signed. We have no idea what Campbell is really asking for because we have heard conflicting reports ranging from $5 million to $6.5 million per season. The question is how much is Campbell actually worth. The signing of Dion Phanuef in Calgary is good news for Buffalo because I don't think Campbell can ask for the same money that Phanuef is getting.
There was a good post by Matt at Sabre Rattling breaking down the worth of Brian Campbell and he brings up many valid points regarding Campbell. It is obvious to me that Campbell will get much more on the open market than what the Sabres are willing to offer so the decision rests ultimately with Brian Campbell and whether or not he wants to remain in Buffalo. One thing that is obvious to me is that Brian Campbell is going to be a rich man, I'm just not sure it will be in Buffalo.
In addition to looking at the top puck moving defensemen you have to look at the top defensemen in the league as well and determine where Campbell would fall in with those guys. I am a big fan of Brian Campbell but if he thinks he is one of the top 15 defensemen in the league I think he's kidding himself. I don't think the Sabres would be able to justify paying him more than $6 million per season. I think Campbell is much improved defensively but he still has way too many lapses in his own end. From a personal standpoint I think Brian Campbell would be somewhere in the range of $5.5 million per season for 5-8 years.
The Sabres have a tough time attracting free agents but they have to remember that there are many good defensemen available this off season. A few of the guys that will be available are Dan Boyle, Wade Redden, Mattias Norstrom and Rob Blake. I don't anticipate the Sabres being able to lure any of these guys to Buffalo but they have to consider their options before over paying for Campbell. There are other guys available in addition to the players I've listed and don't forget they have Nathan Paetsch, Andrej Sekera and Marc-Andre Gragnani. Gragnani is probably another year or two away from being able to play in the NHL but all indications are that he will be capable of being similar to Campbell.
It will be interesting to follow these negotiations as they progress and whether or not Campbell will be in Buffalo in two weeks. I anticipate this being the top story regarding the Sabres over the next couple of weeks and we will probably hear both sides negotiating through the media. Stay tuned for much more to come on this situation.