Thursday, July 5, 2012

So, what's next?

With the fireworks over across the country, except for those communities who had them rained out, it's now on to the dog days of summer.

NHL GM's, though, still have some work to do even though the two biggest names in this year's free agent crop--Zack Parise and Ryan Suter--have officially signed with Minnesota

A couple of quick notes on Parise and Suter.

It's really great to see the Wild outbid the big-market teams and land those two as opposed to the Rangers, Flyers and Wings. It was a hefty price to pay--$98M over 13 years with $25M up-front--but they did it. And they should feel pretty good about it.

In Buffalo, GM Darcy Regier, is still looking for a #1 center--Colorado's Paul Stastny keeps coming up--and he may be looking to upgrade on the wing as Anaheim's Bobby Ryan is said to be on the market. Rick Nash has not been moved either.

Regier has done some pretty good tweaking to the roster thus far. Bringing in behemoth John Scott and his Hulk-like "smash" demeanor will be useful in certain situations.

But trading Derek Roy for Steve Ott and Adam Pardy really changes the team.

Roy had been a whipping boy in Buffalo for years, and it rarely had anything to with his production. For years after Chris Drury and Daniel Briere left, Roy was near a point/game pace.

But, what he really lacked, and what was sorely needed, were the intangibles in a top-six role.

Even though he wore a letter, he never really exuded leadership. He wasn't on the ice to bring toughness. Nor was he pesky.

He was a skater, "soft-but-skilled" incarnate.

For five seasons we watched a whole team of soft-but-skilled skaters. The Sabres over that time span were considered "easy to play against." And over that time period they never made it past the first round of the playoffs, having missed them altogether three times.

Steve Ott is the antithesis of Roy. He has the grit and the leadership. He goes north/south, goes through, and goes at it.

Unfortunately, he's a bottom-six winger as opposed to a top-six center. And the Sabres are really thin down the middle.

The teams' centers at this time are Tyler Ennis, Cody Hodgson, and Cody McCormick.

Ennis and Hodgson are young (both are 22) and still have bountiful upside, but they're untested. Ennis showed glimpses of possibly being a top-six, maybe even top-line, center late last season when he, Marcus Foligno and Drew Stafford went on a tear that almost got the team into the playoffs.

Hodgson got off to a real slow start with the Sabres, but seemed to finished a bit stronger last season. After the trade from Vancouver he seemed to settle in. He's presently training with Gary Roberts.

As for McCormick, although he still brings grit and toughness to the team, his lack of production last season may see him start the season in Rochester.

The trade of Roy means that the purging of Regier's "vaunted" core players has really kicked in.

All four of the teams' top centers from 2007-08 are now gone. Tim Connolly left last off-season for free agency, Paul Gaustad was traded to Nashville this past February and it looks as if Jochen Hecht will not be offered a contract for this season.

Regier has been doing a masterful job of retooling this team on the fly over the past five months and has brought a sense of excitement as to where the team is headed.

Let's hope he keeps it going.

More on the Roy/Ott trade from Dallas:

puckdaddy on the Roy/Ott deal:

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