The New Jersey Devils locked up Travis Zajac for the next four seasons by signing him to a contract that will pay him $13.5 million. Zajac had a career year with 20 goals and 42 assists for 62 points. He also had a very impressive plus 33 rating for the season. This season was a bounce back after he had a disappointing Sophomore stint that seen him net only 14 goals and 20 assists.
The Zajac signing is important to Buffalo Sabres fans because he has similar stats to still unsigned restricted free agent Drew Stafford. A couple of weeks ago I did a post that compared Stafford to other players with similar stats. In typical
Buffalo Sabres Darcy Regier fashion, Drew Stafford is the only player on that list that remains unsigned.
Regier has forever been known for being patient, sometimes too patient, when making difficult decisions. Let's all hope that both sides have been negotiating and this isn't another case of Regier being too patient.
We speculated that the Sabres would have an opportunity to sign Stafford in the neighborhood of $2-$2.5 million a couple of weeks ago. That number has since been replaced with much bigger numbers that make me wonder if the Sabres can even afford Stafford. Zajac signed for an average of just under $4 million per season and the cheapest player on the list is Ryan Callahan.
The original list of players included players that were already signed as well as players that were restricted free agents like Stafford. The other four RFA's have already been signed so they are now the only comparison.
Travis Zajac - Signed for 4 years - $15,500,000 ($3,887,500 cap hit)
|2008 - Travis Zajac||82||20||42||62||33||29||5||1||2||0||185||10.8|
Mikael Grabovski - Signed for 3 years - $8,700,000 ($2,900,000 cap hit)
|2008 - Mikhail Grabovski||78||20||28||48||-8||92||6||0||2||1||120||16.7|
Ryan Callahan - Signed for 2 years - $4,600,000 ($2,300,000 cap hit)
|2008 - Ryan Callahan||81||22||18||40||7||45||2||1||1||0||237||9.3|
Tomas Plekanec - Signed for 1 year - $2,750,000 ($2,750,000 cap hit)
|2008 - Tomas Plekanec||80||20||19||39||-9||54||6||3||2||0||202||9.9|
The above numbers give us as accurate of comparisons as we are going to find. There is Plekanec that signed for just one season and Zajac that signed for four years.
It's time for the Sabres to make a decision on Stafford. They need to decide what he is worth to this team and sign him or trade him. The longer he remains unsigned the more likely that he will not be a member of this team next season. It's time to figure out what the Sabres options are moving forward...
Sign Stafford for One Season
Tomas Plekanec signed a one year deal this off-season that was worth $2.75 million. Stafford had slightly better stats than Plekanec this season but overall he is a less accomplished player than Plekanec. If Stafford is looking for a one year deal he would probably sign with the Sabres for around $2.5 million.
Sign Him to a Multi-Year Deal
This becomes a little bit more complicated for the Sabres. Any long term deal will obviously escalate throughout the deal because at 24 years-old Stafford is likely to become better and better every year. The first year could easily be in the neighborhood of $2.5 million but depending on the number of years it could become an expensive deal.
If I was the General Manager of the team I would shoot for a three year deal in the neighborhood of $9 million. If Ales Kotalik is worth three years and $9 million than Drew Stafford is worth $9 million.
Trade Stafford Away
This is the Sabres third, and least popular, option for the Sabres. If the team is unable to shed some salary in other areas they may be forced to part ways with Stafford in hopes that some young guys are ready to step into the lineup. Stafford would help the Sabres acquire some significant assets because of his offensive talent and potentially huge upside.
I can't even begin to imagine how this will play out in the end but I would try to sign Stafford for three to five seasons. Darcy is probably reluctant to sign him to a long term deal because they did that with Pominville and he went backwards last season. Stafford is likely to get better but even the status-quo wold be good enough to get a long term deal.
It's your move Darcy...now make it!