The Buffalo Sabres and new owner Terry Pegula have a lot of work to do this off season. Aside from reshaping the roster from its current viewpoint to one that can win the Stanley Cup, free agency is going to subtract quite a bit from this roster.
On July 1st, the Buffalo Sabres lose the rights to the following players:
Tim Connolly, Drew Stafford, Steve Montador, Mike Grier Rob Niedermayer, Andrej Sekera, Nathan Gerbe, Chris Butler, Mike Weber, Patrick Lalime and Cody McCormick.
Despite having a personal change of heart, I think Tim Connolly is going to lead the list of free agents getting on a bus out of Buffalo this summer. Joining him will no doubt be Patrick Lalime, and Rob Niedermayer.
Sekera, Butler, Weber, and Stafford are all restricted – and I don’t see Butler having a case with an arbitrator. Sekera – might have a slight case given his second half of the season surge. Drew Stafford, as long as he doesn’t have another golden stick run has a pretty good shot at winning an arbitration hearing against Buffalo. He has another golden stick run and he can just about name his price and what team he wants to play for.
Steve Montador and Cody McCormick are role players on this team that I think are needed in the near future by this organization.
The heart of the problem with this team lies with their back up goaltender. The key to winning extra games in Buffalo relies on having someone that can sit on the bench for stretches at a time, and then able to step in cold for a game, win, and then return to the bench.
If the Buffalo Sabres resign Jhonas Enroth to a deal this year, it will be for the league maximum, three years. Guess what – that puts Miller’s contract expiring at the same time as the kids. Depending on how the next few seasons go, Ryan Miller may want to stay in Buffalo beyond the 2013-2014 season. If that is the case, you can bet that Jhonas Enroth is going to ask for a one way ticket out of Buffalo – and we will lose another goaltender from the system – another good goaltender.
I don’t want to get to high on Jhonas Enroth. Most of his wins have come in extra time, in the shootout. He beat the last place Ottawa Senators – who were playing a lot of guys from Binghamton, guys that Enroth is use to seeing in the AHL. He hasn’t shown up and gone lights out against a team and made people go WOW. But he is still just a kid. He needs his chance just as any other goaltender.
If you like to play the draft numbers, Ryan Miller was a gem, found in the fifth round of the 1999 entry draft. Marty Biron was already a member of the Buffalo Sabres, having been selected in the first round of the 1995 draft. Miller, despite being selected five rounds later, was given the starting job over Biron. Since leaving Buffalo after being on the bench behind two Sabres goaltender, Biron has turned into a journeymen around the league, with stops on the Isle, in the Big Apple, and in Philadelphia.
Unfortunately, if Jhonas Enroth is to receive the tap on the shoulder from the organization, and he is not given the starting job at the end of Miller’s current contract, the Buffalo Sabres need to part ways with the Swedish netminder, in favor of a more durable backup. It’s not because I don’t like Enroth, but because I do like him, and I think he deserves every chance to start in this league.
Resigning him this off season and showcasing him is the best option for the Buffalo Sabres. If he can show up next year and hang with the big boys, then the Buffalo Sabres have a huge pawn to play when it comes to trades. Hopefully long gone are the days that we let valuable players walk out of Buffalo while getting nothing in return. Let’s do the right thing, not only by the Buffalo Sabres, but by Jhonas Enroth as well.