What to do with the boys in the blue paint for the Buffalo Sabres? Ryan Miller only has one year remaining on his contract, and despite all the talk he puts up; will most likely be looking for greener pastures come unrestricted free agency.
At this point, Jhonas Enroth couldn’t win a game in Buffalo if someone paid him. Ok – bad joke, but it has been 15 starts since he was able to win one for the team.
If the Buffalo Sabres organization is going to blow things up after this year, they need to start looking at who will be the leader of this team from the crease, who will be the man to stand behind his team, even when they just don’t have the legs.
In the last installment of this segment we looked at the depth of goaltending in the Buffalo Sabres organization – and the future doesn’t look real bright.
There are plenty of talented goaltenders that will be looking for work this offseason, if they are not resigned by their current teams before hitting free agency.
Not necessarily leading the list, but a notable name on the roster is Mike Smith, from the Pheonix Coyotes. Making just two million dollars a year, the salary hit for signing him doesn’t have to be outrageous. Take a page out of the Detroit Red Wings book – it doesn’t have to be pretty or overpaid, it just has to stop the few that get to him. I would be looking at enticing a guy like Mike Smith to come and start goaltending for the Buffalo Sabres. You let Jhonas Enroth walk without tendering him an offer – and bring in Smith to back up Ryan Miller for one season. If you can sign him to a two or three year deal – he’s your insurance policy in the event that Ryan Miller stays, or he’s your bridge between Ryan Miller leaving and getting another stud in net if that is what you are looking for.
While it would be in the best interest for the Pheonix Coyotes to sign their starting netminder, the ongoing ownership saga in the desert has put the ice bag on contract talks with Smith – and delays that might lead into free agency could have Smith looking for not necessarily greener pastures, but a stable built on a team that isn’t going anywhere.
Have you forgotten Saturday’s game already? If you were on the ice for the Blue and Gold you probably have – because it could easily been different headlines if not for the remarkable goaltending by Evgeni Nabokov. Several times he stood tall and was up to the challenge of the Buffalo Sabres, and after this season, the New York Islanders are going to have to either resign him, or see him leave the Island for another starting NHL job.
Only on his second NHL team – one that he initially did not want to play for – Nabokov could be looking for a new gig, but may want to stay on in Brooklyn if things start looking up for the franchise.
For the Buffalo Sabres – he would still be cheaper than Ryan Miller – and seems to be doing a better job in getting the job done. Granted – it was one game against the Buffalo Sabres, but he does have the Islanders just two points out of the top eight.
Long term he may not be the answer, but again, as a stop gap to finding the right goalie for the job, he will be serviceable if you can get him on a 2-3 year deal. He will be cheaper than Ryan Miller, but a little more expensive than Smith. Of course, at this point, who wants to come to Buffalo after living through the New York Islanders.
Next on my board of free agents would be current Montreal Canadiens netminder Peter Budaj. If you can convince him that rebuilding in Buffalo is not going to take that long – he could be interested in the chance to stake his claim. A spot in Buffalo means crawling out from behind the shadow of Carey Price.
In 263 career starts, he has 108 wins. At thirty years old, you could easily pin him up for a five year deal – especially if you don’t think Ryan Miller is going to your goaltender after the 2013-2014 season.
There are plenty of goaltenders who are working on expiring deals. I would even pay the 1.95 it would cost to contact Jimmy Howard‘s agent and find out how interested he might be in leaving Detroit. If there is one team that can recover from losing their starting goaltender, its the Detroit Red Wings. It can’t hurt to make the phone call and see where the barometer is at.
Part three of this installment will look at goalies striking out on the RFA trail this off season, and if it might be worth the Buffalo Sabres tendering an offer sheet.