Tim Murray wants the Buffalo Sabres to get better, and he wants to get better quick. Waiting for drafted players to be ready for the NHL, or waiting for the team around said drafted players to be working as a finely tuned machine might not be in his best interest.
If you can’t wait for drafted players and you don’t want to waste money over paying on July 1st – signing restricted free agents to an offer sheet might help you build a core of players that will strengthen your team and bridge the gap you need to get good. Here are a list of restricted free agents the Buffalo Sabres should or could be considering in the restricted free agent market.
Buffalo Sabres Restricted Free Agency Options
C Ryan O’Reilly – Colorado Avalanche
The Colorado Avalanche center held out last year Only to be signed by the team. The Buffalo Sabres were rumored to be involved in discussions with the Avalanche for his rights last year, and many people thought the Sabres should have used their offer sheet to pry the center away. Buffalo is thin at center, and could use the depth. While Tyler Ennis led the team in scoring this past year, he is also a restricted free agent, and O’Reilly would be an upgrade over Tyler Ennis on the roster if you didn’t want to keep Ennis as part of your rebuild. With Cody Hodgson and Zemgus Girgensons locking up roster spots for 2014 – Buffalo could make a move on O’Reilly and start building around the pivot.
LW Tomas Tatar – Detroit Red Wings
With only two seasons under his belt, the left winger was second in scoring for the Detroit Red Wings. Unfortunately for Detroit – they have limited cap space to work with bringing their other restricted guys into the fold, as well as add the veteran presence they need to build upon their limited success in their first year in the Eastern Conference. Detroit won’t let Tatar leave the nest easily; but given their position if caught at the right moment, they may be hard pressed to match an offer sheet. The Sabres know far to well what being backed into a corner with an offer sheet means, well at least they used to. Getting Tatar into the fold builds their left wing corp up, a position they aren’t overly well off in. After Foligno and Conacher, the drop off is pretty severe, with third and fourth liners Matt Ellis and John Scott holding down the fort. The Buffalo Sabres really don’t need John Scott on the roster, and Matt Ellis brings leadership and depth to the organization, but doesn’t really get my vote of confidence when it getting more than Rochester Americans type minutes for the organization.
C Jaden Schwartz – St. Louis Blues
The St. Louis Blues might be a prime target for offer sheets. With another early post season exit, the St. Louis Blues learned this year what it meant to be the favorite, as opposed to being a contender. The thing is, the St. Louis Blues should be a contender – and the organization could be looking for any piece of the puzzle that is going to get them to that stage. With plenty of free agents on their books including former Buffalo Sabres Ryan Miller and Steve Ott – pinning an offer sheet on the Blues might catch them blind sided and let you pull one of their players from them, or they could be hoping to match the offer taking all the work of getting a contract onto paper and putting it on another general manager.
C Ryan Johansen – Columbus Blue Jackets
Columbus could be thinking bridge contract here to see if Johansen can live up to the hype that has surrounded himself – if that is not good enough for Johansen and his agent, an offer sheet might be the best way for Ryan Johansen to get the contract he thinks he deserves. While other options might be a sure thing or get teams to second guess their ability to match the offer sheet, Columbus has plenty of room on the payroll to match any offer – Buffalo’s best chance is to make the deal sound real sweet to Johansen and his agent making it more about length and security than the money. Offer sheets may sound like the way to go for the Buffalo Sabres to avoid overpaying in free agency on the open market, but it could still lead to over paying players to prevent teams from easily matching any offer made on one of their players. If you were Tim Murray would you be looking at offer sheets to round out your roster for next season?