With the NHL draft only a few days away, and the start of the free agent signing period less than two weeks away, GM’s league-wide have no doubt made their wish lists, both short and long term. Additionally, the league has reportedly announced to teams and agents that the salary cap will rise $5 million, to a Pegula-friendly $64 million. All of this is leaving fans around the league with illusions (or delusions) of grandeur, hoping that their favorite team makes that blockbuster trade, or signs that big ticket player to put their team over the top.

Why should Sabres fans be any different?

When Darcy Regier and company take to the Xcel Energy floor on June 24th in Minnesota, will they have any doubt about keeping the 16th pick in the first round? Will this draft be any different from recent Sabres drafts, where they chose to keep their picks, and stock the prospect cupboards? Or, as many a fan is hoping, can they package that draft pick, along with a player and a prospect, and obtain that top-line centerman we so obviously need?

The draft has annually been a hot bed of activity with regards to trades. Every general manager league-wide will no doubt be kicking the tires, laying the groundwork for future trades, or actually consummating the deal. There has been some chatter that Buffalo is looking to be active in the trade market.

Looking around the league, however, Buffalo isn’t the only team with a need for a top two center. Dallas is most likely losing Brad Richards, who will go to the team most willing to overpay him, er, I mean to the highest bidder. The Devils, Capitals, Coyotes, Panthers, Rangers, Senators and Leafs all could use some top-line talent down the middle. This year’s free agent centermen leave a lot to be desired. After Richards, the next best options for teams are Brooks Laich, Jason Arnott, Tomas Fleischmann and, uh, Tim Connolly.

Therefor, a trade seems to be our best option. However, we all know about the laws of supply and demand.

Apparently, Buffalo tried, and failed, to make a big splash at this year’s trade deadline. Names like Jason Spezza, Patrick Sharp and David Backes were thrown around, and the Sabres ended up with Brad Boyes. Perhaps our trading partners weren’t quite ready to give up the goods, or perhaps Regier wasn’t ready to part with a fan favorite, top prospect, or both.

The Sabres seemingly have an abundance of NHL-caliber talent ready to storm HSBC arena in the next few years, and they can afford to deal some of it to obtain that #1 guy to push us towards that goal of winning it all. But, Darcy needs to act sooner rather than later, or be left without a prom date.

His excuses are gone. They left town back in February. He has had enough time to evaluate where they are, where they want to go, and formulate a plan to achieve it. His only obstacles are himself, and finding a willing dance partner. It isn’t easy to make trades in these salary cap times. Dollars have to be counted. Contract term has to be considered. Leaving yourself room for the future (Tyler Myers and Tyler Ennis will no doubt command hefty raises after next year) is a necessity.

That’s why Darcy makes the big bucks, isn’t it though?

I know there are teams ready and willing to deal. Only one team wins the Stanley Cup every year. There are a dozen other teams ready to make some changes, tweak some rosters, obtain some assets and players or just plain trade for the sake of trade, all for a shot at glory. Then there are those handful of teams who, even with the cap increase, enter salary cap jail every year. These teams are looking to dump a few contracts, and may be willing to deal a highly paid, top end talent. There are then other teams who are loaded at a certain position, and are looking to add to other positions.

The Flyers instantly come to mind. Ed Snider said they would not go into next year with the goaltending situation undecided, like it was this past year. What did they do? They promptly went out and traded for the negotiating rights to goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, who is to become a free agent July 1st. Now they have a window in which to negotiate a contract with him exclusively, and potentially solve their woes in goal. However, the Flyers don’t have much cap room to fit a hefty Bryzgalov contract in. Rumors have been circulating that they may have to trade a top line guy. Mike Richards and/or Jeff Carter come to mind, considering their salaries. Not knowing what it would take to obtain either player, it would seem that one or the other would be a good fit here.

The Sharks come to mind as a team loaded at the center position, with Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture all viable options as top centers. How long will they be able to keep Couture buried beneath Jumbo Joe and “little” Joe? How long will this team be a Stanley Cup favorite, only to falter year after year? Something’s got to give out in San Jose. Pavelski would be the better choice, given his age, contract and intangibles, but can you even imagine Thornton setting up Vanek every night with those ridiculous, soft passes?

The Avalanche are a team with two number one guys at center in Paul Stastny and Matt Duchene. Stastny has been the go-to guy for a few years, but Duchene will no doubt push him down the depth chart. And with Anton and Marion’s nephew making over $6 million a year, that doesn’t seem to be smart business for the Colorado franchise to spend those kinds of dollars on their 2nd line option.

It would seem that the Sabres have some options. What it would take to obtain these types of players is another thing. For all you NHL11 players out there, trading Jochen Hecht for any one of the above mentioned players IS NOT REALISTIC! Would you be willing to trade an Ennis, or a Kassian, a McNabb, or all three? How about Enroth? Let’s face it, we are going to have to give something of value to get value in return.

It might sting a little initially if, for instance, we have to trade Ennis, Adam, Foligno and a 1st for (insert stud centerman’s name here). But, if we want to hang with the big boys and compete for Lord Stanley’s Cup, Regier is going to have to make a couple of tough, unpopular decisions for the betterment of our team.

Because, at some point, you have to ask yourself, “do we want to win a championship, or are we satisfied with being competitive every year?”.

I know what my answer is. What’s yours?




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