Just like the rapidly heating Earth’s core in the movie 2012 that made the tectonic plates of the Earth unstable, the Buffalo Sabres roster will be just as unstable next season. If the Buffalo Sabres are to be successful in this rebuild, it won’t be a one and done type roster remodel by the front office. This upcoming season should be just as tumultuous around trade deadline day as last season.
If you are on an expiring contract, there is little doubt in my mind that the Buffalo Sabres will be trading you away this season – for the promise of the future. An expiring contract means you are part of the old Sabres. General Manager Tim Murray and company want to change the culture of the organization, and that means new blood.
Buffalo Sabres Borrowed Players
Chris Stewart joined the Buffalo Sabres just before the trade deadline in one of the biggest trades in Buffalo Sabres history since the trade that brought Dominik Hasek to Buffalo. Ryan Miller and Steve Ott were gone, and in were two guys that St. Louis felt they could get rid of.
Stewart didn’t have long to prove his worth in Buffalo, with injuries piling up and playing on a team that just about punched its card the minute Miller and Ott were traded, if not before. Stewart only appeared in five games for the Sabres, registering six penalty minutes, no goals, and no assists.
Torrey Mitchell is another expiring contract that was inherited by getting rid of an expiring contract. Came over in the Matt Moulson/Cody McCormick deal with the Minnesota Wild, Mitchell appeared in nine games for the Buffalo Sabres and scored one goal.
Buffalo doesn’t have anything vested in these players, and turning them as parts for impact players or even better more draft picks, could help stock the farm and enhance the return for Ryan Miller, Steve Ott, and Matt Moulson.
The Buffalo Sabres crease was a revolving door of goalies this year, with moves and injuries causing the team to use a record number of keepers in both Buffalo and Rochester. One of those goalies was acquisition Michal Neuvirth.
He only dressed for two games for the Buffalo Sabres, and lost both contests, allowing a total of five goals. In the end of the season press conference Ted Nolan told the media that he is just as much the starting goaltender as Jhonas Enroth next season, with no spot guaranteed. A training camp battle will decide that fate. Can Neuvirth prove he can carry the bulk of the load next season, or will he split the crease with Enroth?
Buffalo Sabres Free Agents
Drew Stafford tops the list of Buffalo Sabres who will be free agents at the end of last season. Buffalo has been rumored to be shopping Drew Stafford the past two trade deadlines, with no deal locked into place.
Stafford has drawn the ire of the previous regime and many fans as his disappearing act in the regular season grows old. Since emerging from the shadows of anyone else on the team with passion and voice, Drew Stafford has emerged as a leader, someone who will pick up the on and off ice leadership roles that this team desperately needs. Stafford is saying all the right things to remain with this club, and he proved it on the ice this year – reminding people that he can play hockey again. How will him and the team react to his contract year?
Patrick Kaleta was relegated to the American Hockey League by the past administration after he was suspended, the team sending the message to Kaleta that he has to change his game if he wants to stay. A major injury in Rochester ended his season. With the Buffalo Sabres trying to gain the respect of the leagues officials, it is likely that the Sabres slip him back down to Rochester if they don’t feel he has changed his ways. If he can stay healthy, he might be just what a team out West is looking for to add a little toughness and grit for an extended playoff run.
Buffalo Sabres Two Way Players
Brian Flynn played his way onto the Buffalo Sabres roster towards the end of the season, and has been well received by the new coaching staff. I wouldn’t doubt that we will see a lot of Brian Flynn in a Buffalo Sabres sweater, having paid his dues in Rochester long enough. He should come cheap enough that the Buffalo Sabres will resign him, to either a two way contract or to a steady gig to ensure he is on the third or fourth line for the next few years.
Matt Ellis is another player that the Buffalo Sabres should be able to get on the cheap, only costing the Buffalo Sabres the league minimum. He is a solid two way player that can fill in for the Buffalo Sabres in a pinch, and adds veteran leadership on the farm. I wouldn’t doubt if the team resigns him to a two way deal.
The time of Jhonas Enroth has come. He has paid his dues playing behind one of the perceived best goaltenders in the world. But the Buffalo Sabres have a history of letting a new goaltender overtake that role. Just ask Martin Biron. He paid his dues behind Dominik Hasek only to find himself still playing second fiddle to Ryan Miller. Can Jhonas elevate his game and retain the number one goalie status for the Buffalo Sabres?
Will any of these players be retained after this season – or will Tim Murray continue to move expiring contracts from the Buffalo Sabres roster to further bolster the future of the team?