Eventful summer, but Sabres still have work to do
Can anyone remember a more fun offseason that this one?
After all these summers of being the hunted, the Buffalo Sabres are finally the hunters, throwing cash at desired talent and shedding themselves of players not to be considered part of the future. No matter what happens, this will be among the most anticipated campaign since those heady days of 2006.
In with Robyn Regehr, Christian Ehrhoff, Ales Kotalik and Ville Leino; out with Tim Connolly, Rob Niedermayer, Chris Butler, Paul Byron and Mark Mancari ... and the team isn't quite finished.
Well, they shouldn't be, that is. See, there's still work to be done—the 400 lb. gorilla in the room is the team's lack of a bona fide No. 1 center. With all due respect, Leino doesn't cut it, despite Darcy Regier's assertion there's a lot of upside there. Not enough, anyway, to ignite Thomas Vanek or Drew Stafford and turn one into a 50-goal man.
Sure, the Sabres missed out on the Brad Richards sweepstakes, but that doesn't mean they can just abandon their stated (OK, inferred) goal to acquire an elite player, one who has the ability to carry a team's offense and make big plays in the postseason. Leino and Derek Roy each fit the mold of a No. 2 pivot, but simply don't fit the mold of a guy like Richards.
Of course, that kind of player is in short supply (well, OK, Richards kind of was). But now that free-agency madness is over, it's time for Regier to engineer a major trade. Don't think the new-look Sabres aren't bold enough? Unless you figure in the Philadelphia Flyers' overhaul, Buffalo's been the single-most aggressive team this summer. If their early July spree is a precursor, a blockbuster—possibly involving Roy, Tyler Ennis, Jhonas Enroth or another significant contributors—almost inevitable.
Who's out there? Who's available? Just about everyone, apparently. Did you expect the Flyers to deal Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and Kris Versteeg in a four-hour window? Did you see the Dany Heatley-for-Martin Havlat swap coming? Clearly, if the right return is offered, plenty of No. 1 centers can be had.
The talk has focused on Ottawa's Jason Spezza or Colorado's Paul Stastny. But what about a superstar like Evgeni Malkin or Vincent Lecavalier? Obvious second fiddles now behind Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos, there's only so much cap space to go around. It might mean giving up two established--perhaps even beloved--players in return.
But it would sure cap off an unforgettable ride and make the summer of 2011 the dawn of something truly special.