Published by hockeybuzz.com, 7-5-2016
First off, a big thanks to CapFriendly for their work, and second, Minnesota's Nino Niederreiter has filed for salary arbitration.
Niederreiter was taken fifth overall by the NY Islanders in the 2010 NHL Draft and his wish to be traded was fulfilled as he was sent to the Wild in exchange for Cal Clutterbuck and a 2013 third-round pick (NJD.) He went from scoring one goal in 55 games for the 2011-12 Islanders to a stint with their AHL affiliate, Bridgeport Sound, after the lockout ended then onward to Minnesota where he had 36 points (14+22) in 81 games for the Wild after the trade.
Since that season the 6'2' 212 lb. Niederreiter has steadily increased his point-total to a career high 25 goals and 32 assists last season.
The 24 yr. old is at the end of his second pro contract and had a $2.66 million cap-hit last year.
Why bring this up?
Niederreiter was the subject of trade rumors leading up to the expansion draft as GM Chuck Fletcher had some difficult decisions to make. Fletcher decided to protect Niederreiter and was forced into making a deal with the Las Vegas Golden Knights to keep them from nabbing unprotected players like defensemen Marco Scandella and Matt Dumba. Fletcher sent top prospect Alex Tuch to Vegas for a third-rounder and the Knights eventually selected F, Erik Haula in the expansion draft.
Scandella was eventually traded to Buffalo along with Jason Pominville, a former Sabres captain.
Although Fletcher has managed to keep his core together, Niederreiter seems to be like an electron that may eventually break free and the Sabres most likely are keeping an eye on the situation (as are other teams.)
Niederreiter is listed as a right-winger, of which the Sabres have many, but he's played both sides of center and would fit nicely in a top-six, left-wing role in Buffalo. It's possible that a $4 million or more arbitration ruling could be in the offing and although the Wild have the cap-space to absorb that, the ramifications of an arbitration hearing can lead to a messy situation.
But, onward to the Sabres.
The trade for Scandella and Pominville added just over $3.3 million to the Sabres cap. As of right now, Buffalo is well under the $75 million cap ceiling with four restricted free agents they're expected re-sign for the roster--forwards Zemgus Girgensons and Johan Larsson, defenseman Nathan Beaulieu and goalie Robin Lehner.
A look at the Sabres cap situation.
Zemgus Girgensons--1.25 (estimate)
Johan Larsson--1.0 (estimate)
Total for 13 forwards--$37M (approx.)
Nathan Beaulieu--1.5 (estimate)
Total for 8 defensemen--$23M (approx.)
Robin Lehner--4.0 (estimate)
Total for 2 goalies--$6.5M
Buffalo's total cap-hit for the 23-man roster as constructed above is right around $66.5 million leaving them roughly $8.5 million in cap-space.
We may also want to keep in mind a possible total of $5.5M in bonuses that could be paid out this year. Any cap-overage because of bonuses would affect next year's cap. Eichel's performance bonus number is $2.85 million while Reinhart's would be $2.65 million.
If play a conservative cap game and assume both players will hit their marks, the Sabres as of right now are $3.5 million under the NHL's $75 million cap-ceiling, which is a good cushion to cover injuries throughout the season.
Of note, the Sabres have a $41,667 cap-hit tied to the buyout of Cody Hodgson.
As it stands right now Buffalo has 39 players signed to pro contracts with five RFA's to sign (the four roster players plus another one in F, Evan Rodrigues.) If the Sabres re-sign all five RFA's (which is likely) it will put them at 44 pro contracts, which is six under the league maximum of 50 NHL pro contracts allowed (last year they ran with 45.)
With 23 players projected to be signed to the Sabres roster, the rest of the Sabres pro contracts.
LW, C.J. Smith
W, Alexander Nylander
C, Sean Malone
RW, Nick Baptiste
C, Eric Cornel
LW, Vaclav Karabacek
RW, Justin Bailey
C, Kyle Criscuolo
F, Seth Griffith
C, Kevin Porter
F, Rodrigues (projected to sign)