Believe it or not, the Buffalo Sabres have the highest payroll in hockey. Yes, the same Buffalo Sabres that have been handcuffed over the years as a ‘small market team’. With Terry Pegula on board as owner, they no longer have that problem.
With this summer’s spending spree, the Sabres actually sit above the salary cap by over $2 million. That’s not taking into account the pair of restricted free agents still needed to be signed. So what will GM Darcy Regier do to get back under the cap?
The Sabres are in this situation due to the re-signing of defenseman Andrej Sekera on Tuesday. Sekera, 25, signed a four-year deal worth $11 million. According to CapGeek.com, that contract pushed the Sabres $2.395 million over the cap, leaving Regier in a spot where he’ll need to make a move.
If Regier looks to the trade route, Brad Boyes or Jochen Hecht could be candidates. Both have one year left on their remaining contracts and could be players that teams under the cap floor can turn to.
Boyes didn’t exactly set the world on fire after coming over from St. Louis in February, scoring six goals in 28 games (including the playoffs). Meanwhile, Hecht has been in Buffalo since 2002, producing consistently in that time. He has, however, struggled to put together a healthy 82-game campaign.
Another player to watch would be defenseman Shaone Morrisonn, who also has one year remaining. He was signed as a free agent last summer, but is a part of a defensive glut as Buffalo possesses seven defensemen, with RFA Marc-Andre Gragnani left to be signed. Morrisonn had five points and a minus-2 rating in 62 games in 2010-11.
If Regier would rather not deal Boyes, Hecht or Morrisonn, he could follow a trend of big-market teams sending players with one-way contracts down to the AHL and eating the money (i.e. Cristobal Huet and Wade Redden). One candidate for this scenario is Ales Kotalik, who was re-acquired from the Calgary Flames in the same trade that netted Robyn Regehr.
Kotalik is set to make $3 million this season, the last year on his deal, and had his best years with the Sabres following the lockout. However, his stock has dropped considerably. The 32-year-old winger was waived twice in his short time with the Flames and split last season between the NHL and Abbottsford of the AHL. With Pegula’s deep pockets, the team can afford to pay Kotalik’s $3 million salary in Rochester this year.
Taking Kotalik’s cap hit off the books wouldn’t exactly solve all of the problems for the Sabres. Not only does Gragnani need to be re-signed (with plans of him playing with the big club in 2011-12), but backup goalie Jhonas Enroth is also currently a RFA. Sending Kotalik to the AHL would give the Sabres $604,643 of cap space, obviously not enough to re-sign both Gragnani and Enroth.
What would I do if I were Regier? I’d deal Morrisonn and send Kotalik to the AHL to give the team some flexibility once the season starts. But who knows what Regier will actually do… he’s never been in this situation before.
Our podcast 'RLD Hockey Talk' is LIVE every Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 ET/Noon CT. Some of our notable guests in past episodes have been Dustin Brown, Doc Emrick, John Buccigross, Dave Strader, E.J. Hradek, Elliotte Friedman and Jay Grossman.