As the Sabres fan base heal/calm from a shocking move on from the gm and not so shocking move from the coach. The fans are once again wondering what can be done to bring this team back to the days of 06-07. My personal hope is to get someone who is a salary cap wizard, is able to make savvy moves. We see with the Sabres and even the Bills to a certain extent bad contracts have plagued the teams here in the 716. As much as we can make a list of those contracts in the past (looking at you Leino) this article is going to focus on the contracts that are currently on the team. It’s something the new GM will be tasked of handling these contracts not only cap wise but roster wise as well. This article will take a look at contracts that will have to be addressed by the new gm whoever that may be, and take tiny glimpse into two candidates the Sabres have been linked to.
Tyler Ennis, 27 was signed to five year 23 million dollar extension with the Sabres in the summer of 2014 with an annual cap hit of 4.6 million he followed through with the contract scoring 20 goals and having 26 helpers the following season. The reason why Ennis is a cap liability isn’t because of his lack of talent I think all Sabres fans have seen enough of what Ennis can do on the ice, the issue with Ennis is his health. To myself since Ennis’s concussion he has not been the same player there is some hope in my mind that he can eventually recapture that form. However a team that has Justin Bailey and Nicholas Baptiste waiting in Rochester, for a guy who gets paid 4.6 million over the next 2 years waiting isn’t an option. The Sabres don’t have time to wait and see if he can contribute again to this team that is clamoring for a youth movement. Recommendation with contract, Ennis I feel can be a contributor still just not to what Sabres need. That being said I believe finding a suitable trade partner with another team is to take a chance on a guy who is similar maybe cheaper in cap hit to bring in and fill a different role than Ennis would’ve filled. Another course is to leave him unprotected and to let him go to the Knights during the expansion draft if they happen to choose him.
Matt Moulson, 33 was signed to a five year 25 million dollar contract with the Sabres in same summer offseason Ennis was signed in with annual cap hit of 5 million with two years remaining. The difference between Ennis and Moulson is age, and speed. In the last two seasons Sabres faithful has seen both the ups and downs of twenty-six from being our only goal scorer during the tank to barely scoring the year Jack got here. The biggest gripe that I think fans and myself have is that Moulson is slow, slow has in he just doesn’t have the skating to keep up with Eichel, Kane, and company. There are multiple problems with this contract the term, the money, and the fit he just doesn’t fit what this team needs for modern style hockey. Again I bring up the roster spot that Moulson holds that Bailey or Baptiste doesn’t hold because as we look north to the Leafs they are interjected with youth from line one to line four. Not saying we have to be the Leafs but injecting speed, and youth is not necessarily a bad thing. The silver lining at the end of this bad contract tunnel could be the relationship Moulson has with Las Vegas Knight GM George McPhee. McPhee is the godfather of Moulson’s wife this relationship could help take that 5 million dollar cap hit to Las Vegas if he is left unprotected just something to think about with the expansion draft coming up shortly. Recommendation with contract is to leave unprotected to allow the scenario above to play out. If Moulson does not get picked up by the Knights a possible buyout could be coming down the line to free up a roster spot so the next GM can tool the roster the way they want.
Zack Bogosian, 26 was signed to a seven year 36 million dollar extension with the Jets in the summer of 2013 with an annual cap hit of 5.1 million with three years remaining. This contract doesn’t fall on any executive on the Buffalo Sabres. While the trade I consider a win because of how great Evander Kane is on 5v5 hockey, but the issue is the contract with a whopping cap hit of 5.1 million over the next three years. For perspective how much that actually is for the caliber of defenseman we have Chicago paying Duncan Keith 5.5 million while Washington John Carlson is making 3.9 mil. Again blame for this contract does not lie with Tim Murray the Sabres simply inherited a defenseman that was supposed to be a top 4 player for years to come but instead the trade turned into a bottom pairing high cap hit defenseman on a team that got killed by an immobile blue line. Recommendation for contract, Bogosian is a harder case than the other two given the term left of three years at 5.1 million. This cap hit combined with term might make his contract the worst on the Sabres getting a team to take that contract would involve prospects and picks. The course of action here is to let him play on the third pairing defense where his defensive issues can be limited to 12-14 mins a game. If he can recapture the form he had when awarded the contract then the cost can fit the player until then I see a bottom pairing defenseman.
GENERAL MANAGER CANDIDATES
All the players above that have been mismanaged by GMs that don’t truly know how to work the cap or just have played out their contract. In Buffalo’s case I believe that Tim Murray did an okay job while being here but I think where his weakness was is in the above contracts. The Sabres had to get to the floor during the rebuild which is fine the length is the issue that keeps players on the roster restricting some of the youth this lineup desperately needs inserted. The real question at hand is who to get to fill the GM’s shoes, two names come to mind and both have worked with two of the best GM’s in the game at the moment. Those two names are Norm Maciver in Chicago and Julien BriseBois in Tampa Bay both have been linked to the Buffalo opening and are being talked about by top hockey analysts. Both have been praised by their superiors in their current executive roles.
Norm Maciver is currently the assistant general manager of the Chicago Blackhawks, He works side by side with Stan Bowman the current GM of the Blackhawks. Not much is known about Maciver other than the obvious he has been a part of the Chicago Blackhawks organization during one of their most dominant times they have won multiple Stanley Cups and being a consistent favorite year in and year out. Maciver isn’t praised for coaching hires or contracts its more team building that is his strength. It’s the culture he has been around and built since coming to Chicago he has witnessed Bowman manage multiple superstars while keeping a core together that allows them to compete every single year. While doing research on Maciver I stumbled upon an article written by Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune @ChrisKuc who sat down with the assistant GM in March of 2016. Definitely worth a read through especially considering his chance at getting the Sabres job. In the article it’s apparent that Bowman lends the a worthy amount of credit to Maciver who he Bowman calls “a stabilizing force” in Kuc’s article crediting Maciver having a big impact of roster decisions and breaking down strengths and weaknesses of the Chicago Blackhawks. Below will be link to Chris Kuc’s article from the Chicago Tribune.
Julien BriseBois is currently the general manager of the Syracuse Crunch, and also assistant general manager to Steve Yzerman. BriseBois resume is quite impressive during his time in Tampa he has helped Yzerman with cap decisions, negotiations, and coaching hires. Coaching hires I think is a talent and here is why BriseBois was the GM of the Norfolk Admirals who were the AHL affiliate at the time of the lightning. At this position BriseBois and Yzerman hired someone named Jon Cooper in 2010 who I believe might be the brightest coach in the NHL at this moment. Cooper being hired in Norfolk helped bring along Tyler Johnson, and Ondrej Palat who are bright young modern style hockey players. BriseBois has also been a part of some of the savviest moves made by a gm in recent memory with Yzerman signing Nikita Kucherov to a 3 year deal with an annual cap hit of 4.7 million. Yzerman also has made some very smart trades a few that come to mind is the Purcell trade in 2014, Flippula trade being the most recent. Learning from one of the best, seeing first-hand how just to draft, develop, and run a hockey team. BriseBois would bring an analytical approach, a modern fresh taste to the Buffalo Sabres that would be much needed. I have full confidence that if BriseBois is hired we can expect someone who will bring a knowledge about the game and can build a roster made for the style of hockey the fans want.
Both men are more than qualified to run the future of the Buffalo Sabres. Among them though I would have to side with BriseBois with his talent for working the cap helping the Tampa Bay lightning become a solid deep team with deep AHL affiliate as well. Hiring Julien would benefit not only Buffalo but possibly help Rochester climb out of the standings basement. Drafting better, and having better coaching at all levels would elevate our once deep prospect pool back to where it once was. I don’t think the Sabres are far away from any kind of a wild card playoff spot by any means they just need the right personnel to get the most from this roster and to bring in some competent blue line help. Coming from the Lightning will also be a blessing since he has seen this roster in action and can break down exactly what the Sabres need. Also having the connections BriseBois will have will make finding a competent coach to help get the most from this roster a tad bit easier. BriseBois would help bring the Sabres into a new era where possession, fast, fun hockey will be the norm at the Key Bank Center.
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Below is Chris Kuc’s article on Maciver.