The Sabres are a young team that has been building through the draft, but with so much cap room, could they start getting aggressive and try to acquire a star player?
The Buffalo News’ John Vogl observes the Sabres will have considerable cap space for 2015-16 if GM Tim Murray wants to invest in experienced talent to play alongside their promising youth. He points out the Sabres currently have 15 players under contract totalling $37.7 million, leaving them $13.3 million from the cap floor and “a colossal $31.3 million” under the cap limit.
Vogl considers this an opportunity for the Sabres to “dream big,” suggesting they attempt to acquire a notable star like San Jose’s Joe Thornton, Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg or Washington’s Alex Ovechkin.
While Thornton and Ovechkin are unlikely to waive their no-trade clauses for the Sabres, and the Red Wings likely won’t part with Zetterberg, it wouldn’t be surprising for Murray to target teams with limited cap space in hopes of landing some veteran talent, especially those lacking no-trade clauses.
Such moves are likely to occur leading up to the 2015 NHL Draft. The Sabres possess depth in promising prospects and draft picks to use as trade bait, among them three picks in the first round.
One of those picks was acquired from the New York Islanders in last season’s Thomas Vanek trade. If both clubs finish poorly in this season’s standings, the Sabres could end up with the top two picks via the draft lottery. With Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel labelled “can’t miss” NHL prospects, the Sabres could land both youngsters. Murray also has the option of dangling one or both picks in the trade market in hopes of acquiring a king’s ransom of talent in return.
If Murray is unwilling to part with his picks or young players, he can turn to the 2015 free agent market. Vogl wrote the depth of talent is limited, but lists such notables as forwards Jason Spezza, Nick Foligno and Justin Williams, defensemen Johnny Boychuk and Paul Martin, and goaltender Antti Niemi as potential free agents who could help the Sabres.
If Murray is given the green light to spend for 2015-16, he must avoid repeating the mistakes of his predecessor. In the summer of 2011, the Sabres signed Christian Ehrhoff and Ville Leino to expensive contracts, but both failed to improve the club and were subsequently bought out three years later.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Bleacher Report, Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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