Making the Most of the Offseason (2)

A little over a week ago I posted the first version of this and, at least it seemed, people enjoyed it enough to prompt me to have another crack at it. This one is going to be a bit longer so bear with me. For convenience I've also broken this edition down into a few categories: 'trades', 'free agent signings', and let's call the last category 'the leafs win the cup next year' in the sense that it's never going to happen. Let me take this opportunity to apologize to anyone who feels I've taken an idea of theirs. I'll try to give credit when I can and though I read most everything on this site sometimes I can't remember where I read something. So if I've presented an idea that you had previously mentioned feel free to leave a comment and I'll attribute the idea properly. Oh, and also - unlike last time I'm not totally on board with all of these ideas. Some of them I think would actually be bad for the Sabres but I wanted to throw them out there anyway for conversation.

Before I begin I'm also going to lay out Buffalo's draft picks in the 2010 draft, I'll be referencing them and this will hopefully make it easier. Buffalo will pick 23rd overall in the first round and hold these picks in the following (rounds):

(1) - 23, (3) - 68, (3) - 75, (3) - 83, (4) - 98, (5) - 143, (6) - 173, (7) - 203, (7) - somewhere between 207-210 depending on San Jose's finish.

Ok, here we go.


First up in this category is a trade that has been mentioned once or twice around here (first by djc1877) both by Sabres and Leaf fans. The trade is a fairly simple one: Tim Connolly for Tomas Kaberle. The cap hits for each player are similar (4.5 and 4.25 respectively) and both teams would be gaining something in a need area. Honestly I'm not a big fan of this idea but it's certainly plausible.

Reasons it could happen:

  • Single player trades where both players have similar cap numbers mean no cap worries for either team, often the simpler the more likely to happen.
  • Kaberle could provide the Sabres with a PP QB while Connolly would provide scoring for the leafs - areas of need for both teams.

Reasons it won't happen:

  • The Sabres are already a bit weak down the middle and losing one of the more talented players at the center position would only make things worse.
  • Brian Burke seems to have a specific idea in mind for the type of player he'll be targeting and I don't think an oft-injured center fits that mold.

Next we have a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets who are pretty desperate for improvement. Paul Gaustad, Nathan Gerbe, and pick 68 for R.J. Umberger, Matt Calvert, and pick 34. The Blue Jackets would get a replacement center who brings less offense but more intangibles (FO%, defense, leadership). Gerbe would also be a great addition for them and could step into a top 2 line role, he's a much more NHL ready prospect than Calvert and will likely be better in the long run. The Sabres would be getting a big center who could add a scoring punch to a third line along with a decent prospect on the LW (which would help even out the organization's abundance of C and RW prospects and players) and would also get a chance to move back into the second round in the draft.
Reasons it could happen:

  • Both teams would stand to gain something in this trade and trading the same number of players, prospects, and draft picks leaves neither team short.
  • Umberger makes 3.75 million per year while Gaustad and Gerbe make 2.3 and .85 respectively, both teams have the cap space to make this happen.

Reasons it won't happen:

  • Gaustad has been identified as a member of the Sabres core and is unlikely to be moved.
  • Columbus might be weary of picking up a contract for an (arguably) overpaid 4th line center.

This next trade was brought up by Tom Luongo in another post but I thought I'd reiterate it here for anyone who might have missed it. Tom proposed trading Derek Roy or Tim Connolly, Chris Butler, and Jhonas Enroth to Dallas for Brad Richards (with a conditional first round pick if he resigned with the Sabres). In this deal Dallas would get a replacement center and could start to rebuild with a young defenseman and one of the top goalie prospects. The Sabres would of course be getting a point per game center in a big body (6'0", 200) who would hopefully resign with the Sabres after his contract expired in 2011. Richards would make 7.8 million next year but that large cap hit would be partially offset by the loss of Roy (4) or Connolly's (4.5) salary, making the cap increase between 3 and 4 million - a manageable amount for the Sabres. From there the hope would be to get him signed to a more cap-friendly contract below 7 million. At age 30, Richards would likely be willing to consider a pay cut if it came with a longer deal on a contending team like the Sabres.
Reasons it could happen:

  • The Sabres are in need of a true number one center which this trade would provide them with.
  • Dallas needs to rebuild after finishing well out of the playoff picture last season and could start that process by dealing their most expensive player.

Reasons it won't happen:

  • Dallas could either try to get a bigger haul for Richards prior to the start of the season or wait until the trade deadline to deal him, that is if they want to deal him at all - not a foregone conclusion.


One free agent I find pretty intriguing is Sergei Gonchar. It becomes more likely every day that Gonchar will be moving on from Pittsbrugh as they are unlikely to be able to accommodate his contract and thus will likely let him leave. The situation with Gonchar is a tricky one because, at 36, he'll likely be looking to sign his last contract in the NHL. At the same time, if he were to retire before the conclusion of his contract his salary would count against the cap due to the over 35 rule in the CBA. Thus the balancing act becomes trying to lower his yearly cap hit by making his contract longer but not so long that he will retire (or become ineffective) before its conclusion. Gonchar made 5 million last season with the Penguins and is unlikely to agree to much less this year. That being said, the Sabres definitely have the room to bring in Gonchar, especially if the plan is to use the money saved from Lydman (2.9) and Tallinder's (2.6) contracts. Giving Gonchar 5 million next season would mean we'd be short one defenseman but it seems likely that between Sekera, Butler, and Weber those youngsters could hold down two roster spots. If the Sabres could get Gonchar with a deal around 3 years and 13 million (5, 4, 4) it would certainly be worth considering, if the team is comfortable with letting their two FA defensemen walk.

Reasons it could happen:

  • The Sabres are in need of a PP QB, which Gonchar would become while also bringing leadership and experience as a cup winner.
  • Bringing in Gonchar as a puck moving offensive defenseman would take tons of pressure of Myers while providing him with a mentor.
  • With Lydman and Tallinder potentially leaving and Rivet's contract set to expire next year the Sabres have plenty of cap room and can afford to spend a little more on their defense.

Reasons it won't happen:

  • Offering anything more than a two year contract to a 36 year-old is a big gamble that could work out brilliantly or could make what we're overpaying for Rivet look like a steal.
  • Gonchar might still try to take a pay cut to stay with the Pens, avoid moving, and continue to have a very real shot of winning another cup.
  • Being the premier offensive defenseman in the free agent market could drive his price up and another team with more cap room and desperation could end up making a more lucrative offer.

This one is a real long shot but I'll put it out there anyway. Montreal is having a heck of a postseason and much of that success is due to their new star goaltender. The Canadiens will surely do everything they can to keep Halak but will that mean Tomas Plekanec could be sent packing? It's hard to say but the Canadians will certainly have a difficult time keeping Price, Halak, and Plekanec - all three of which will be getting new contracts this offseason. If somehow Plekanec did become available he would be a guy worth considering as a consistent 20 goal scorer over the past four years (20, 29, 20, 25). He's also got decent size (5'11", 200) and is relatively injury free. If the Sabres could acquire Plekanec and move Connolly it's hard to argue that wouldn't be an improvement.

Reasons it could happen:

  • Montreal has succeeded in the postseason despite getting only 4 goals and 11 points in 17 games from Plekanec - a relatively modest contribution Montreal might feel it could do without.
  • Though Montreal almost certainly wants to keep Plekanec, their first priority will undoubtedly by Halak. If that means Plekanec walks - so be it.

Reasons it won't happen:

  • If I were Montreal I'd let Price walk before Plekanec. Realistically though, Montreal will probably be able to sign them both.
  • Though Plekanec has been consistent in the goal department his point total has fluctuated pretty wildly, a risk the Sabres may not be interested in taking.

Next we have a rather enigmatic player in Olli Jokinen. He established himself as a pretty reliable goal scorer with Florida (36, 26, 38, 39, and 34 goals from 2002-2008) but it seems relatively clear that he's started to decline. In his last two seasons Jokinen went from Pheonix to Calgary to the New York Rangers and amassed goal totals of 29 in 2008-2009 and 15 in 2009-2010. At 31 it seems unlikely that he will return to anywhere near 40 goals a year but it is certainly possible that he could get back in the 20-30 range again. Pheonix, Calgary, and New York all failed to get as much out of him as they hoped but there's going to be some team out there who thinks they can get the effective Jokinen back. He made 5.2 million last year between the Flames and Rangers but his recent decline in production makes me think he might be in line for a pay cut. Honestly it's hard to say if he's washed up like some people think but if the Sabres could sign him for something in the 4 million range it could be worth considering.

Reasons it could happen:

  • Jokinen is a big body (6'3", 215) who could add a scoring punch to a first or second line.
  • Center is a position of some need for the Sabres, especially a center with some size.
  • The Sabres have the cap room to fit Jokinen in and could stand to get a deal on him based on a poor outing last season, that is if he returns to form.

Reasons it won't happen:

  • Jokinen is likely to be too pricey for Darcy, even if he makes less than last year.
  • As an older guy Jokinen might prefer a longer term contract which the Sabres might be reluctant to give him.
  • If last year was an indication of what's to come the Sabres have no need for a player who would eat up top line minutes while only producing 15 goals on the season.


First up in this category is the Pittsburgh Penguins who are currently suffering media whippings as a result of a game seven defeat at the hands of the Canadians. Before I continue I'd like to refer back to the subheading of this category and reiterate that I know the chances of this happening are non-existent. Anyway, Pittsburgh would be unwise to blow up a team that has made two trips to the Stanley Cup and won it once. That being said, one of the most talked about options for Pittsburgh would be to move Evgeni Malkin. Now what would a future hall of fame talent like Malkin command on the trade market? It's hard to say. John Grigg thinks Malkin and a fifth round pick to Edmonton for the first overall selection, Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson and Sheldon Souray would be a fair trade. For the Sabres, I wonder if Connolly, Myers, and a pick would be an equivalent trade for each team. Both teams have the cap space to make this happen and both teams would gain something they lack. Pittsburgh would be getting a replacement center and a defenseman who looks poised to grow into one of the game's greats. Connolly would take over on the third line for them pushing Staal up to the second and Myers would replace Gonchar and become an anchor on their back end. Buffalo on the other hand would get their hands on an elusive more-than point-per-game player. Malkin is a generational talent who has yet to put up less than 28 goals or 77 points in a season (which was this year when he played in only 67 games). At 23, it seems unlikely that Malkin will be dipping below 100 points per full season anytime soon and would immediately make a top line with Vanek beyond extremely dangerous.

Reasons it could work in theory:

  • Both teams would be trading a center so neither team would be short up front and both teams would be getting a rare gem of a player that a team could build around.

Reasons it absolutely won't happen, without any kind of form of doubt:

  • Pittsburg isn't going to part with Malkin and Buffalo isn't going to part with Myers.
  • The Sabres would instantly go from having a decent to good defense to have one of the worst back lines in the league.
  • Pittsburgh would go from having one of the deadliest offenses in the league to, well, not. They won't trade away half of the cornerstone of the franchise.
  • I don't think the fans of either team would be happy with this trade, not that that actually matters but it could play into a GM's thinking.
  • Darcy Regier.

Next up is an idea I've toyed with for a while without any real progress so I'm just going to throw it out there. It's been brought up here before how the Sabres are never bad enough to get the first or second overall selection in a draft. In fact, the last time the Sabres picked in the top 5 was in 2003 when we selected Thomas Vanek 5th overall. Other than that, the last 20 years have had one pick at 7th overall (Eric Rasmussen, 1996) and a few in the low teens. In other words, it's not like we're Pittsburgh and have the luxury of selecting our centers 1st overall, 2nd overall, and 2nd overall (not to mention their keeper was also 1st overall). But how can this really be remedied, outside of throwing a whole season? The idea would be to try and trade for Boston's 2nd overall pick they acquired from Toronto. Trading into the top two spots is near impossible but if there were ever a time to do it this might be it. Edmonton is projected by most to be taking Hall first overall meaning Seguin is likely to fall to 2nd overall. A 6'1" center being compared to Steve Yzerman would be available 2nd overall.

So what would we need to give Boston to make this happen? For starters our first round pick, 23rd overall, this year and our first round pick, again likely to be in the 20's, next year would be the base but not nearly enough to make this deal happen. Some combination of Luke Adam, Tyler Ennis, Nathan Gerbe, Zack Kassian, Chris Butler, or Mike Weber would probably be included and perhaps a few later round picks. I wonder if a package like this would work: 23rd, 68th, and 83rd overall in 2010, 1st and 3rd in 2011, Luke Adam, and Tyler Ennis for 2nd, 135th, and 195th overall 2010, and Jamie Arniel. The Bruins would be getting 5 picks all in the top 100, two of which are first rounders, as well as - well I don't have to explain to you guys what Adam and Ennis bring to the table. The Sabres would be getting the 2nd overall pick (Seguin) and two replacement picks, albeit in later rounds (5th and 7th), as well as a center prospect. Arniel (taken 97th overall in 2008) looks to be a decent player but there are injury and skating concerns and trading him for Adam would be an upgrade for the Bruins but would net the Sabres at least a decent prospect in return. The Sabres would be short on picks in 2011 (they currently have all their regular picks for that draft) but would be getting a heck of a player in 2010.
Reasons it could work in theory:

  • Each team would retain the same number of draft picks this year.
  • By avoiding picking 2nd overall Boston could also avoid the future inevitability that Seguin would be traded away a la Thornton and Kessel.
  • The Sabres would finally have their first top two pick in over twenty years.

Reasons it absolutely won't happen, without any kind of form of doubt:

  • The Bruins aren't trading away the 2nd overall pick for anything short of an obvious steal.
  • The Sabres can't afford to give the Bruins enough to make this deal worth it for the Bruins.
  • Upon closer examination it appears this is a really bad deal for the Bruins - so anyone who has a deal that might actually make sense please speak up.

Ok, there you go. Sound off. I'll be happy to agree that many (most? all?) of these moves are highly unlikely. The Sabres have a pretty clear two year window to work with right now with Miller in his prime and Myers on his EL contract (not to mention Ennis). Now (or next year) would be an ideal time to strike. I purposely stuck to moves that had a bit more flash, avoiding the stuff Darcy is known for but feel free to add those kinds of moves in the comments. I'm hoping this time people will get into making counter offers a little more. You don't think that Malkin for Myers is a good idea but Malkin for Miller works? (bad example, I know) Well say so in the comments. Also, I'm not going to be doing any more of these so anyone who has any other ideas say so now or forever hold your piece.

This is a FanPost written by a member of the community. It does not necessarily express the views or opinions of Die By The Blade.