Saturday, July 16, 2011

FA Frenzy: Buffalo Sabres

In the past, the Buffalo Sabres have rarely taken part in the free agent frenzy (FA Frenzy) known to diehard puckers as July 1. Okay. Brian would probably correct me and say an emphatic:

"NEVER!!!!!"
So yeah. It is pretty cool to see his team jump in among the Big Boy$ thanks to new owner Terry Pegula's win at all costs strategy. When they traded with the Islanders for the rights to Christian Ehrhoff, I admittedly didn't think much, assuming the German blueliner would predictably wind up in Detroit to replace Brian Rafalski. Instead, the unthinkable happened with Pegula able to convince the Ehrhoff that he could win as he had with Robyn Regehr, who originally said no before a trade with Calgary was finalized. Yes!!!!! The Sabres have teased their fans for years. No Goal withstanding, they were close in '06 until injuries that must've meant the Mets team doctor was at work dashed their hopes against Carolina. If only Dr. Seuss had been a not more gentle. :P Who will garner the first reaction to these references? The Met fan or the long suffering Sabre fan. I digress. There also was '07 but we'll just leave that alone after Sambone's classic rant on his show Friday.

When the Sabres announced the astronomical 10-year frontloaded $40 million deal with Ehrhoff, to say I was floored was an understatement. Shocked. Appalled. Flabbergasted. You name it. I couldn't believe it and neither could Hasan, who expressed disdain at the way the contract paid out. This is what the NHL wanted. A couple of more crazy deals by two Battle clubs to two of the top free agents (Ehrhoff, Richards). So yeah. There also were the usual absurd Flyers with their insane contract with Ilya Bryzgalov that cost both Jeff Carter and Mike Richards in a makeover. Just wait till next year folks. The party's over.

If it wasn't enough that Pegula signed off on Ehrhoff, then came another bomb with his team landing ex-Flyer Ville Leino. The terms. A cool six years at $27 million. Yes again! These are the Buffalo Sabres. Leino is a good player who turns 28 in the first year of the megadeal. Not bad for a Finn the Red Wings didn't want, allowing Philly to steal him off waivers. It wasn't until the 2010 postseason that he performed, totaling 21 points (7-14-21 in 19 GP) during the Flyers' surprising run that Chicago ended. He followed it up with a career best 53 points (19-34-53) and had three goals and two helpers in 11 postseason games that ended with a disappointing sweep to eventual champ Boston. So. Is a guy who never scored 20 goals worth $4.5 million-per-season? Such questions are the norm in a buyer's market with the cap escalating- allowing teams like Hawks South (Florida) to buy as many guys as possible.

At least Buffalo got two of the better FA's, adding to an already talented roster that features Ryan Miller, Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy, Drew Stafford, Jason PominvilleTyler Ennis, Tyler Myers and other new D Robyn Regehr, who was swayed into coming thanks to talk of winning a Cup. On paper, the Sabres look pretty good with deadline pickup Brad Boyes in a contract year and miracle midget Nathan Gerbe along with Jordan Leopold and Andrej Sekera (arbitration). Still no idea if Buffalo re-signs backup Jhonas Enroth, who was largely responsible for getting the Sabres in the playoffs a second straight year before they fell in gut wrenching fashion to the hated Flyers. He's a Group II.

It's a roster you have to like after Boston, Washington and Tampa Bay with no clear favorite in the Atlantic. Certainly, the Sabres should be there. The time is now.

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