Thursday, June 15, 2017

No reason for the Sabres to buy out any player this season.

Published by, 6-14-2017

Buyout season has begun and the big name so far is Dan Girardi. The 33 yr. old veteran was bought out by the NY Rangers and because of it they opened up a spot on their protected list for the expansion draft.  The undrafted Welland, Ontario native played in 788 games for the Rangers and compiled 230 points. He had a cap-hit of $5.5 million and according to a TSN report, "Girardi will count for $2.6 million against the cap next season, $3.6 million in the next two years and $1.1 million for the following three seasons starting with 2020-21."

Unlike the NY Rangers, the Buffalo Sabres really don't need a protected spot to free up. In fact they actually have an opening in the 7 forwards, 3 defensemen, 1 goalie protected format and would gladly trade for a top-four d-man to add to their roster.

New GM Jason Botterill was known for his cap wizardry in Pittsburgh where the Penguins had $32.2 million tied up for just four players--Evgeni Malikin ($9.5M,) Sidney Crosby (8.7,) Kris Letang (7.2,) Phil Kessel (6.8)--and had another $5.5 million cap-hit for goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. Those five players took up over half the $73 million cap-ceiling and Botterill was in charge of filling the other 18 roster spots with only $35 million to spend.

Buffalo finished last season close to the cap and right now, according to CapFriendly, they have less than $52 million against the cap, which includes the $750K cap-hit goalie Linus Ullmark signed for. As of right now they have over $20 million to use on six roster openings--3 forwards, 2 defense and one goalie.

Let's project that goalie Robin Lehner will sign for $4.5 million and that forwards Nick Baptiste (718K) and Justin Bailey (670K) along with defenseman Victor Antipin (925K) are all on the roster at the beginning of the season. That adds about $6.2M to the cap giving the Sabres just under $15M to use on one forward and one defenseman.

Botterill has said that bolstering the defense will be a top priority and I'm sure he'll jump at the opportunity to upgrade any position on the roster. And as much as he'd probably like to rid himself of an undesirable contract, conceivably he could go into this season and this season alone without having to resort to a buyout.

The Sabres have four undesired contracts that are of concern on various levels. Based upon term remaining, they belong to Zach Bogosian (three years,) Tyler Ennis (two years,) Matt Moulson (two years) and Josh Gorges one year.) When buyouts were first mentioned during their very disappointing season, Moulson was the name that popped up most frequently. Gorges was a close second.

Moulson has two years remaining on his contract that pays him $5 million/yr. The former 30-goal scorer has seen his numbers decline drastically the last two seasons as he posted only eight goals in 2015-16 and 14 goals last season. In 2016-17 he was basically reduced to the role of a powerplay specialist in that 11 of those goals were scored on the powerplay.  CapFriendly has a buyout cap-hit of $2.83M this year, $3.83M next year and $833K for the remaining two years.

It's something that doesn't make a lot of sense.

Nor does buying out Gorges.

Gorges has only one year remaining on his contract and his cap-hit is $3.9M. Although the numbers are favorable $1.3M buyout cap-hit for the next two seasons, they can keep him in a bottom-pairing/penalty kill role and if things don't work out for the Sabres when the calendar turns, they can explore trading him at the trade deadline.

As for Bogosian and Ennis, the former has three years left on his deal and buying him out would mean his six more years of a cap-hit with the final three being close to $2M. Ennis would have the Sabres eating $2.6M over the first two seasons and $1.6M after that.

Both Bogosain and Ennis have value to the club right now and it would seem as if Botterill would have one more option to rid himself of one of those contracts--the expansion draft.

The Las Vegas Golden Knights will fill their roster with one player from every NHL team and GM George McPhee knows that there are teams desperate to rid themselves of contracts. Through various interactions with many GM's throughout the league, he's letting it be know that he's the man for a job like that. But it won't come cheap.

Apparently trades have been agreed to already and we're not sure if Botterill is in on any of them at this point. My guess is that he will be able to send a particular player to Las Vegas--it's my belief it will be Ennis--thereby giving himself even more wiggle room both this year and next, when Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart and possibly Evander Kane will start new contracts.

The Sabres have done plenty of buyouts the last few seasons, but this year they can back off if need be.

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