It's been a while since the Buffalo Sabres been close to the NHL's salary cap ceiling. The last time was when a 2011 shopping spree brought the team to within $1.836M of the NHL's cap that season. After a ignoble run to 9th place Buffalo blew the whole thing up giving way to the rebuild, the trades for young-vets, and most recently the July 1 signing of free agent Kyle Okposo.
In 2011-12 the Sabres had a cap-hit of $65.492M, according to nhlnumbers.com but the team fell way short of expectations and they began to dismantle. With the scorched earth rebuild set to begin their salary cap number would be reduced to $63.792M in 2012-13 and would hit a low of $59.211M in 2013-14 when they finished last in the league.
The Sabres would finish in last place again the following season with a total cap-hit of $62.340M yet they were $9.586M under the NHL salary cap. In 2015-16 Buffalo came in at $61.725M.
Heading into the 2016-17 season the NHL has set the ceiling at $73M and it looks as if the Sabres will be right up against it barring anything weird happening between now and the October 13 opener vs. the Montreal Canadiens. Buffalo GM Tim Murray has three restricted free agents who were on the roster last season to re-sign in forwards Marcus Foligno and Zemgus Girgensons and defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen with about $13M in cap-space as of this juncture.
There have been slight discrepancies from various cap-sites concerning the number right now but if we break it down to those players who had a significant role on the Sabres last season plus recent signings, we get to a $59.16M total cap hit plus $541K for the Cody Hodgson buyout for a total of about $59.7M. According to capfriendly, the Sabres will not be on the hook for any carryover bonus overages.
I'm not a capologist, and thank God this isn't the NBA or NFL, but here's what I have right now:
Forwards (11) $37.64M
Defensemen (5) 18.30M
Goalies (2) 3.225M
At 18 roster players, the Sabres are five under the max so in addition to Girgensons, Foligno and Ristolainen, there is room for one more forward and one more defenseman. Here are possible high-side cap-hits for those three RFA's which could total $12M:
$59.7M (Current roster)
.541 (Hodgson buyout)
12.0 (potential RFA numbers)
Within this structure the Sabres will have approximately a $72.2M total cap-hit or $800K under the cap to add two roster players. Cody McCormick should be moved to long-term injured reserve and the Sabres will be able to exceed the NHL salary cap by his $1.5M number giving them approximately $2.3M in cap-space to add three roster players.
It's pretty tight this season, yet it's also something Sabres fans should get accustomed to as this is probably what we'll be seeing for a while.