Buffalo - June 26, 2014 - With the dog days of summer upon us, there isn’t a whole lot to look forward to this off-season if you’re a Buffalo Sabres fan.
Sure, the draft, the only thing we’ve all been looking forward to since October, is right around the corner. And yeah, that’ll be the only source of excitement in Western New York until football season starts, but other than that? Nada. Zilch. Zip.
Unless you’re the kind that loves to speculate over who will be the next compliance buyout victim. And who doesn’t love a good bit of speculation?
The thing is, though, that the Sabres have already used one of their two buyouts on Ville Leino. Everyone saw that coming; Leino was a train wreck from the day he signed in Buffalo. He never scored with any kind of regularity (or at all last season) and just looked uncomfortable in the blue and gold during his entire tenure in Buffalo. Buying out that wretched contract – he still had three years left on his six-year/$27 million deal – was as much of a guarantee as there was coming into this off-season.
But there’s something interesting to note: Murray said there’s a 50/50 chance the Sabres don’t use their second buyout. Which means there’s a 50/50 chance it gets used after all. But who could they possibly use it on?
Well, at first glance, it seems the logical answer is “no one”. Only eight players – Cody Hodgson, Zemgus Girgensons, Nicholas Deslauriers, Tyler Myers, Christian Ehrhoff, Mike Weber, Rasmus Ristolainen and Jake McCabe – are signed past this season. Of those names, only three – Ehrhoff, Myers and Hodgson – are signed long-term. Ehrhoff still has forever left on his deal at a cap-friendly hit of $4 million and holds trade value, but comes with recapture risk if the Sabres go that route.
Myers, with four years left at $5.5 million per season, has seen his stock rise significantly over the last year. He’s finally leveled out his play and looks as though he could be that top pairing defenseman the Sabres had hoped they’d found with his Calder Trophy win a few years back. He’s not going anywhere unless the Sabres get a Godfather offer for him in trade. And Hodgson doesn’t make sense considering they gave him a new deal last year, he’s still just 23-years-old and had a solid offensive season on the worst offensive team in decades. Little chance they’d give up on him.
There is one name that could be worth considering: Mike Weber. Sure, he’s signed for next-to-nothing ($1,666,667 cap hit for the next two seasons) and he’s one of the few veterans left on this team, but his play has taken a sharp decline and he wasn’t that good to begin with.
Last season, he frequently looked out of position and got beat with regularity. It’s not like he has any offensive punch to counteract that, either, as he posted just one goal and nine points last year. Hell, he’s only got seven goals in his last three seasons combined. He’s a one-dimensional player whose one dimension is a mediocre defensive defenseman.
On top of that, the Sabres suddenly have a plethora of defenseman they’d at least like to take an extended look at. Myers and Ehrhoff are about the only givens right now, but the team has a lot invested in Ristolainen, McCabe, Nikita Zadorov, Mark Pysyk and even Chad Ruhwedel. Do the Sabres want to let those guys get their lumps in now in hopes that they can bring the 2014 #2 overall pick and (hopefully) Connor McDavid into the fold next year? Or do they want all the kids to grow up together? That’s an important question when considering this scenario.
Ultimately, the Sabres are unlikely to use their second compliance buyout. They need salary just to get up to the cap floor, Weber isn’t expensive in the least and it just gives them one more option on a blueline full of young, impressionable defenders.
You’re safe for now, Mike. For now.
Follow Ryan on Twitter: @TwoPadStackRW