Mar 11, 2014; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres right wing Drew Stafford (21) celebrates his goal against the Nashville Predators during the first period at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Drew Stafford's Contract Year

Drew Stafford is at an impasse in his NHL career.  Stumbling out of the gates last season under a regime that was slow to show any progress – he really turned it on once the Darcy Regier era was officially over.

Does that mean Drew Stafford has emerged from the ashes of the horrible Buffalo Sabres and will emerge as a phoenix for the rebuilding hockey franchise?  Could be unlikely.

Drew Stafford is a number one draft pick, one of many that dots the landscape of the Buffalo Sabres roster.  But he has never really shown off his true potential that convinced the Buffalo Sabres to draft him 13th overall in the 2004 draft.

The 2004 draft was the same draft that gave the NHL Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin.  But there were also some duds that were taken higher than Drew Stafford, and some good players that were taken after him.

Did Drew Stafford deserve to be taken 13th overall?

Just a reminder, the Buffalo Sabres could have selected Mike Green or Dave Bolland.  Stafford has yet to put in a full 82 game season for the Buffalo Sabres, the closest he has come was in 2011-2012 when he hit 80 for the first and only time.

He has only been a twenty goal scorer twice in his career, and those were the season he played the most NHL games.

The problem with Drew Stafford – is he appears to be the type of player that likes a larger role with an organizatin, both on and off the ice – something he never had with the Buffalo Sabres, overshadowed by a core group of players that included Danny Briere, Chris Drury, Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek.  While he was a part of the “core” that grew up in Darcy Regier’s system, he never really had any sort of leadership role.  Just go out there and play was pretty much how Drew responded to his role, and it was never really a good one.

With the shadow off his back and his emergence as a leader in the organization, people are taking a second look at Drew Stafford and wondering – is the Buffalo Sabres rebuild the spark needed to ignite his career as a late bloomer?  Only time will tell.

Drew Stafford is entering a contract year, the final year of a deal that many were hoping the Buffalo Sabres would get rid of through a compliance buyout or trade.  When his four million a year contract expires after this season – he could be looking to throw his bait in the market and hope for a larger pay day.

That might be the motivation we see on the ice game in and game out from Drew Stafford this year.

If Drew Stafford shows up and plays like he did in the second half of last season, then I wouldn’t mind tendering him to a one or two year bridge contract, to see if he can maintain the role of on and off ice leader.

At the same time, with an expiring contract and Tim Murray’s new vision, I could see the Buffalo Sabres treating Drew Stafford the same way Steve Ott, Matt Moulson and anyone else on an expiring contract that wasn’t a Tim Murray guy – with a one way ticket to somewhere else in return for more building blocks.  And that might not be a bad thing for either party.

Think Dan Paille.  He never really had what it took here in Buffalo – and was shipped off.  He know has a Stanley Cup ring and is highly regarded by the Bruins organization.

Drew Stafford doesn’t have to go elsewhere to get that same sort of notoriety, he can have that right here in Buffalo if he wants it.

Tags: Buffalo Sabres Drew Stafford Nhl Free Agency Tim Murray

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