One of many highly-touted free agents rising to the surface this Friday will be defenseman Andrew Ference, who spent the last six and a half seasons with the NHL’s Boston Bruins. Should the Buffalo Sabres make him an offer when the free agent market opens?
Ference is a skilled, strong defenseman who can play a top-four role on any NHL team. He’s not afraid to drop the gloves or get physical to defend a teammate – a quality you should never look past – and could bring a veteran presence to an otherwise young core.
At 34, Ference would be the oldest member of the Sabres blueline, surpassing 30-year-old Christian Ehrhoff. He’s 13 years older than Mark Pysyk, to put things into perspective.
But he would bring much more than just age and experience to the Sabres blueline. He’d bring something that’s lacking: a Stanley Cup ring, as Ference won the coveted championship with the Boston Bruins in 2011. He also appeared in this year’s Cup final with the Bruins before losing out to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games.
This season, Ference had four goals and nine assists for 13 points in 48 games. Slipping him into the Sabres roster, that would have put him second on the team in defense scoring, only behind Christian Ehrhoff.
Off the ice, Ference has continually been a part of the community, visiting hospitals and performing other charity work. He created a carbon-neutral program for the NHL, and National Georgraphic did a ten-episode Web series about him in 2012. He’s also been involved with the Right to Play project, along with former Sabres defenseman Steve Montador. He even works with compost worms. So come on, the dude’s pretty cool.
The obvious downfall of the Sabres going after Ference is the sheer lack of space on the blueline right now; even the departure of Andrej Sekera doesn’t open things up since the return was another defenseman.
The overcrowded defense corps as it stands right now: Christian Ehrhoff, Jamie McBain, Tyler Myers, Adam Pardy, Mark Pysyk, Chad Ruhwedel, Alexander Sulzer and Mike Weber.
Pardy and Sulzer are both set to become unrestricted free agents, so they may or may not still be on the Sabres roster after the next few weeks. Assuming they were, and Pysyk makes the Sabres full-time next season… there’s already no room, and certainly no room for Ference. If the Sabres sign just one of them, that still leaves the team with seven defensemen, provided there aren’t any trades in the works.
If the Sabres let them both walk, that leaves the team with six defensemen as it stands at the moment.
So – should the Buffalo Sabres try to sign Andrew Ference when free agency opens on July 5? Ference would be a good addition to any team; he would bring a veteran presence and Stanley Cup experience to the young Sabres blueline, and his fire and grit would certainly fit well with the likes of Mike Weber.
NHL.com suggests that Ference will likely be looking for a short-term deal. He made $2.25 million last season with the Bruins. Depending on the other situations the Sabres will have going on this free agent season, it might not be a bad idea to at least make Ference an offer.