Should The Buffalo Sabres Re-Sign Drew Stafford?


The Buffalo Sabres are going to come out of this struggling season with a lot on their plates in the summer. First up will be the NHL Draft, where any number of moves could be made — including some trades, as we’ve seen from teams in years past. Shortly after that, we’ll hit July and the free agent market will open.

As it stands right now, the Buffalo Sabres have a host of players who are set to become either restricted or unrestricted free agents, including Chris Stewart, Andre Benoit, Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth.

A couple of weeks ago,  I wrote about Patrick Kaletaanother one set to become an unrestricted free agent. Commentors were mixed in their opinions as to whether or not the Buffalo Sabres should re-sign the enforcer, but votes are heavily opposed: 64-33.

Today, let’s look at another Buffalo Sabres player who is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer: right wing Drew Stafford.

Stafford is one of the longest-tenured players in the Buffalo Sabres organization. Like Kaleta, he was drafted by the team in 2004 and played his first NHL games with the team in the 2006-07 season, also appearing in 34 games with the Rochester Americans that season.

Stafford has been with the Sabres ever since. He’s scored 320 points in 555 regular season NHL games throughout his career, and adds seven points in 20 playoff games — all with the Buffalo Sabres.

Arguably the best season of Stafford’s career came in the 2010-11 season, when he notched a career-high 31 goals and 52 points in 62 games. That’s an average of 0.8387 points per game, the best of any season of his career to date.

Compare that to the 0.3913 points per game average he had during the 2012-13 season, or the 0.5238 points per game average he’s going through this season with so far. Clearly none of the Buffalo Sabres are at their peak this season, and Stafford is no different.

More from Sabres News

He hasn’t been shooting as much this season, either. Stafford is currently averaging roughly 1.9 shots per game – the lowest of any of his seasons since 2007-08. In recent years, he’s been around the 2.6 shots per game mark, with his highest marks (2.9 and 2.8) coming between 2010 and 2012.

In addition, his shot percentages have gone down significantly. His rookie season saw Stafford shoot at 19.4 percent. He had a shot percentage higher than 15 in three of his first five NHL seasons, but hasn’t gone higher than 9 in the last four seasons.

This season has Stafford shooting at nine percent.

One of the factors where this correlates is that Stafford has seen less ice time this season than in recent years. He’s averaging 15 minutes of ice time this season, compared to 18:38 last season and 17:01 the year prior. This is the lowest amount of ice time for the right winger since the 2009-10 season, when he averaged 14:28 per game.

Looking exclusively at this season, Stafford has appeared in 42 games with the Buffalo Sabres. He has seven goals and 15 assists, a minus-17 and 35 penalty minutes. The longest point streak of his season came in mid-December, when he had four points (1-3) in four games. He has points in 18 of 42 games and has played over 15 minutes of ice time in 30 games. He’s seen 17+ minutes of ice time in 19 games this season. He’s registered at least one shot in 35 games, and multiple shots in 25 games.

Stafford has been in somewhat of a scoring drought this season. It took him 11 games to notch his first goal; he later went on a 12-game scoring drought, and his goal against Detroit Sunday was his first in five games. Overall, he has just three goals in his last 23 games — not ideal for someone who is supposed to be one of the producers in the Buffalo Sabres lineup.

Stafford is currently in the last year of a 4-year, $16 million contract. In addition to this, there are other players that the Buffalo Sabres need to think about, including their own free agents and players from other teams who could tempt them once July 1 rolls around.

Should the Buffalo Sabres re-sign Stafford, or is it time to let him move on to other pastures? If they do sign him — should it be long-term or short-term, and how much would you pay him?

With just about half the season left, wait and see if he steps up. Stafford has expressed his feelings on the Buffalo Sabres’ recent struggles; he even said that he’s surprised fans are still showing up.

Will he show some sort of life before the season wraps up? And when life continues in October, will he be suiting up in the Buffalo Sabres blue and gold, or in the first new jersey of his NHL career?

What do you think — vote and leave your comments below.