The Buffalo Sabres still have two compliance buyout options to use this upcoming off season. The compliance buyouts were put into place to help buffer the blow for teams that struggled to get under the new “reduced” salary cap that the lockout produced.
The Buffalo Sabres may never use their compliance buyouts, and here is why. With reports that the salary cap could jump upwards of 70 Million dollars by next season – the Sabres may be in need of a couple of inflated contracts to keep themselves at the floor while they continue to rebuild the organization post Darcy Regier.
Ville Leino is subject to much of the compliance buyout talks, as he was signed to a six year, 27 million dollar contract by the Buffalo Sabres prior to the 2011-2012 season. His deal actually gets cheaper as time wears on. This year he is on the payroll for 4 million, with next year still at 4, and the two remaining years at 3.5million dollars.
Despite handing him an average salary of 4.5 million dollars a year, the Buffalo Sabres have seen no return on their investment – and he has long since drawn the ire of fans in the 716 and beyond who are tired of paying for mediocrity.
Since taking the franchise out of the hands of Darcy Regier and Ron Rolston – a change has been seen in many players, including Leino. The fight has returned, emotion and energy are now things common when watching the Sabres take on opponents.
Sure, they are still losing, but changing the general manager and head coach doesn’t change the fact that the Buffalo Sabres are still a bad hockey team, a product of a general manager unable to put the right pieces together. It is going to take more time than 11 games to turn things around for this organization.
Unfortunately the Buffalo Sabres are between a rock and a hard place with an impending inflation of the salary cap. To remain at the floor, they either have to resign Ryan Miller to a new contract with a decent raise, as well as add pieces that are costly enough to keep them at the salary floor.
The contracts of Ville Leino and Drew Stafford may be important in that piece.
The best option for the Buffalo Sabres is to figure out what magic happened inside Ville Leino’s head the year he scored 53 points for the Philadelphia Flyers. Was that a one and done magical year for the forward – or is he capable of playing that way again?
A simple google search using “Ville Leino benching” turns up several interesting articles, and I am not just talking about headlines from his most recent trip to the press box at the First Niagara Center.
Why I’m Fine With the Ville Leino’s Benching (BroadStreetHockey 2011)
Its Time For Detroit Red Wings To Pull The Cord On Ville Leino (Bleacher Rport 2009)
He has been benched a couple of times in Buffalo.
The fact of the matter is, the Buffalo Sabres bought out Nathan Gerbe, a fan favorite player who found the back of the net more often than Leino and was a very feisty player, and didn’t count it as a compliance buyout. The Buffalo Sabres have no problem under current owner Terry Pegula of spending up to the salary cap.
The Buffalo Sabres are no longer in a position to use the compliance buyouts, and if the rebuild goes according to plan, Ville Leino could be a piece of the future, an overpaid piece, but a piece none the less. The Buffalo Sabres want to be the team free agents come to, and they also want to be in the play on July 1 – when everyone overpays for free agents.
Hell, maybe they need to keep Ville Leino on the payroll just to remind them of why the Buffalo Sabres are always looking for, well, Better Days.