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Can the Sabres Afford Drew Stafford

Drew Stafford set career highs in goals and assists this season.  He did it in the final year of his three year entry-level rookie contract.  He is set to be a restricted free agent this summer meaning that the Sabres have the right to match an offer by another team or they will receive compensation. 

The question that remains is not whether the Sabres want to keep Stafford but whether or not they can afford to keep Stafford.  The NHL Salary Cap figures to remain in the neighborhood of $54-55 million but last season the Sabres had a self-imposed salary cap of $50 million.  There is no reason to believe that they will spend more than $50 million this season. 

The Sabres currently have already committed over $46 million to next years salary.  They have only eight forwards, five defensemen and two goalies signed.  They need to sign at least four forwards and a defenseman to complete the lineup.  There is the potential for trades and buy-outs but you can see above that there isn't very much more money to be dispersed.

The Stats

Stafford has been looked at as an offensive player since he signed with the Sabres.  He has shown flashes of brilliance but is criticized for his consistency.  This season he still struggled with consistency but he scored 20 goals for the first time in his career.

Drew Stafford

#21 / Right Wing / Buffalo Sabres



Oct 30, 1985

2008 - Drew Stafford 79 20 25 45 3 29 9 0 0 2 183 10.9

The above graphic shows you that Stafford has the size to be a power forward in this league.  He is only 23 years-old and he has already had a 20 goal season.  You would figure that he will only get better as he matures as a player.

Stafford is one of the best all-around players on the Sabres roster.  He has obvious offensive talent as evident by his 20 goal season.  He also added nine power lay goals that helped the Sabres have a successful power play this season.  Everyone talks about the goals but he is much more than just an offensive player.  He was one of the few Sabres players that finished the season with a plus rating.  He did it by being responsible in the defensive zone.

What is He Worth?

I don't envy the job of Darcy Regier or any of the other 29 NHL GM's in trying to figure out what a player is worth.  It seems that nobody is ever happy with what you decide, especially in Buffalo.  The best way to decide is to compare to similar players.  You would be surprised how many players are in the vicinity of 20 goals and 45 points.

  1. Jason Pominville - 20 G - 46 A - 66 PTS ($5,000,000)
  2. David Legwand - 20 G - 22 A - 42 PTS ($4,500,000)
  3. Nathan Horton - 22 G - 23 A - 45 PTS ($3,500,000)
  4. Tomas Plekanec - 20 G - 19 A - 39 PTS ($1,800,000)
  5. Michael Frolik - 21 G - 24 A - 45 PTS ($1,275,000)
  6. Patrick Berglund - 21 G - 26 A - 47 PTS ($1,246,667)
  7. Travis Zajac - 20 G - 42 A - 62 PTS (RFA)
  8. Blake Wheeler - 21 G - 24 A - 45 PTS ($875,000 - entry-level rookie contract)
  9. Mikael Grabovski - 23 G - 38 A - 61 PTS (RFA)
  10. Ryan Callahan - 22 G - 18 A - 40 PTS (RFA)

The salaries range from $5 million to just over $1 million per season.  Would it be fair to give Stafford a three-deal worth a total of $6 or 6.5 million?  They could try to back-load the contract because they will free up plenty of salary next season.  

Stafford is not the only young 20 goal scorer that is set to be a restricted free agent this summer.  There are plenty of options for teams to choose from which will benefit the Sabres.  The more options that teams have in the free agent market,  the lower the price  will be to sign players.

The Verdict

I think they will be able to sign Stafford for around $2 million per season.   The biggest question will be the length of the contract.  Stafford will probably want a shorter deal if he has to settle for $2 million per season.  The Sabres should try to make it the longest tern they possibly can but I think it will max out at two or three seasons.