Lucky Bounces 1.30.12: Sabres 2nd Half Preview

Josiah: With just over 30 games left for the Sabres, can they make the playoffs and if so, what has to be done?

TJ: Absolutely not.  While they mathematically have a chance being only 10 points out of 8th, this team doesn’t seem to have the man power to make it to the big dance.  The Sabres of this year remind me of the Flyers in 2006-07, the year after Buffalo beat them in the 1st round and they had a completely terrible year.  Unfortunately, Ted Black and Terry Pegula seem to be enamored by the fiction that the current collection of players can actually win something.

Josiah: I am with you on that. There doesn’t appear to be any urgency within the players or the front office. Clearly this group has won before, but the hole they’re in this year is too deep to get out of. Because they believe they can go somewhere, I don’t see any major moves happening with regards to starting over. No one is going to take Roy/Stafford/Leino/Boyes right now. I am all for this team rebuilding around a select few players.

TJ: Exactly, and it starts with Vanek, Myers, and Pominville.  Outside of that, the Sabres have to figure out what to do and who to get.  I’ve been saying all season that they need a seasoned vet who has experience winning something: a gold medal, a world junior championship, or a Stanley Cup.  Guys like Ryan Smyth, Brian Rolston, Jamie Langenbrunner and Jason Arnott are all UFAs next year and could probably all be had for under $2M on a one-year deal.

Josiah: Someone that can take this team under their arm and guide them would be a huge asset. I would rather see a guy like Arnott come here than another highly-priced free agent (isn’t that weird to say as a Buffalo sports fan?). I believe Miller is still their guy in net, and I believe Ehrhoff is beginning to hit his stride in Buffalo. Couple that with Kassian and McNabb and you have a good “core.” Outside of those players mentioned, clean house (I’m looking at you, Darcy). Good news is that Jochen Hecht (roughly $3.5 million cap hit), Brad Boyes ($4 million) and Ales Kotalik ($3 million) will all be unrestricted free agents. This will give the Sabres an opportunity to attract an experienced veteran.

TJ: Well, Kotalik’s cap hit is clear from this team anyway, since they sent him to Europe, his cap hit doesn’t count against the Sabres’s cap space.  Still, according to CapGeek.com, the Sabres have 18 players signed for next season with just $7.3M in cap space under the current salary cap ($64.3M).  Assuming the cap will likely go up about $3-5M, Buffalo has only $10-12M to play with in free agency.  If Pegula wants his GM (whoever that may be) to be a big spender, there’s going to have to be some movement at the deadline.

Josiah: If Roy heats up for any stretch, he must be traded. Even if the Sabres can only get a third round draft pick for him, the cap space is worth 1-2 solid veterans. I’m doubtful of Langenbrunner or Arnott moving anywhere but St. Louis with the Blues’ incredible success. The Sabres could sweeten a deal with Andrej Sekera too, as they have many options on Defense. Final thought, do the Sabres make a move that helps their playoff push, or do they dump salary? I think it’s clear what we both want, but lets be realistic.

TJ: Realistically, I honestly think the entire organization truly believes this bunch can make the playoffs, and not only that, but go far.  I think they’ll take a few more weeks evaluating where they stand.  If they’re still only 10 or less points out, I think they try to make a deadline addition.  Anything more, and they’ll be sellers or just stand pat.

Josiah: I think that they believe they’re in the hunt and won’t begin to evaluate the team until they’ve played as a healthy lineup for 5-10 games. Still, I think it’s all too late. It’s the general manager’s job to keep a team in contention, even through injuries. I see a deadline move but I am praying that it’s not another Boyes/Torres/Zubrus (though Boyes had a great finish after last year’s trade).

 

Follow Josiah (@JosiahDLeRoy) & TJ on Twitter (@TJLuckman) for all of the latest on the Sabres & the NHL.

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