We are just two days away from the opening of the 2010 frenzy that is the free agency period in the NHL.
The Sabres started to take care of business by locking up unrestricted free agent Mike Grier for another year of service. Mike Grier left Buffalo because he didn’t like the way things were headed and played in San Jose for three seasons before rejoining the Buffalo Sabres. Grier was a great leader for the team throughout the regular season, and was probably one of their best forwards if not best players in the 2010 playoffs.
The Sabres are probably getting ready to part ways with the following players, who are testing free agency for a number of reasons:
Patrick Lalime – not having luck in the City of Hockey the past few seasons, Lalime will probably be allowed to make it to July 1st by the Buffalo Sabres as they look in another direction for a veteran backup for Ryan Miller or try to save some money in that position by ending the AHL days of Swedish netminder Jhonas Enroth. I think the only question remaining with Enroth is whether or not one more season with the Portland Pirates would be beneficial for his career. Either way, veteran backup or Jhonas Enroth the Sabres are gambling on whether or not they can trust the crease to someone other than Ryan Miller.
UFAs that the Sabres might be looking at to put them in the million dollar range (which is what they paid Lalime): Alex Auld, Stephen Valiquette, Michael Leighton, Antero Nittymaki, and Dany Sabourin.
Cody McCormick – one free agent that I wish they would tender an offer to is Cody McCormick. He didn’t wear a blue and gold uniform all year long, but was assigned to the parent club to add some toughness to the lineup against the Bruins. WIth no other changes to the roster yet, you would think you would want to put this contract back on the books.
Raffi Torres – with his heart set on Toronto; and the supposed firesale going on in Toronto – you would think the Sabres would have been able to work out a draft day deal for Torres. With Burke trying to make changes to make the Leafs a viable NHL team again – they were looking for a top six forward…obviously they don’t see that in Torres. Which means that Torres, instead of playing in a hockey market might see himself playing in Florida or Tampa Bay, where they care as much about hockey as Columbus did.
Matt Ellis – I can’t say that I have been overly impressed with Ellis since he joined the Sabres; but he has been used in some critical situations. I wouldn’t mind if the Sabres had to had him as a third or fourth line guy. Since you won’t see any changes made to the top six – your role players might see a change in scenery this year.
Adam Mair – minus a handful of games in the early nineties between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the LA Kings, Mair has pretty much been a Buffalo Sabres since entering the league. Having been placed on waivers this year by the team, there is little surprise that the team has not tendered an offer to him.
The two biggest names the Sabres risk losing this year are Henrik Tallinder and Tony Lydman. The fact that we are two days away from free agency and the fact that several teams are expressing interest in them, most notably the Philadelphia Flyers who are looking at both – the Sabres could be in need of filling some voids on their blue line.
RFAs to watch come July 1st for the Sabres: Tim Kennedy, Marc-Andre Gragnani, Mike Weber, Patrick Kaleta, Matt Generous, Philip Gogulla, Michael Kostka, Jean-Phillipe Lamoureux, Mark Mancari, and Derek Whitmore.