The Buffalo Sabres are millions from reaching the required salary cap floor and have a lot of capital to spend. So, who should the league’s worst team bestow the dough upon? While the question is good the answer seems clear: Ryan Callahan.
In the NHL there have been many instances in which a star player has signed with a team not because he’s a perfect fit, or even because he particularly wants to be there; but rather simply due to a fistful of dollars that were extended to him.
No one knows this better than the Sabres. In 2011 they were seeking a big-time center and tried to reel-in Brad Richards; the top free agent that summer. However when Richards signed with the New York Rangers Buffalo, still looking (and needing) to make a splash, made an interesting if not questionable decision.
They moved a notch down the list and threw a cool $27 Million at Flyers’ winger Ville Leino, who was coming off of a decent 53-point season after having tallied six goals combined during the previous two years with Philadelphia and Detroit…and then tried to shoehorn him into the pivot position.
In response Leino has paid Buffalo back with interest to the tune of 10 total goals in three Sabres’ seasons, including 2013-14, in which he lit the lamp exactly zero (0) times the entire year.
To put that into perspective he was outscored last season by teammate John Scott, the league’s reigning pugilist, who in six NHL seasons has exactly two (2) more goals than I do.(Though not if you include my local Beer League career statistics.)
In addition, Leino appears to have all the commanding presence and work ethic of Popeye’s hamburger-scrounging pal Wimpy.
The point is the Blades have to, need to, spend cash; but what they can’t afford to do again is casually throw it away on a lack of heart and/or production. So what’s the answer this Summer of ’14? Again, Ryan Callahan.
Callahan’s Sudden Impact
If a casual fan were to look at the Buffalo Sabres on their surface, they’d appear lost in direction and last in the standings. But just below that surface lies a potential powerhouse.
The Sabres are an organization rife with numerous great young prospects who have been trading away captains left and right. They’re in need of a true leader who’ll be sticking around for a while.
And the thing is that while it’s not imperative that those prospects win in 2014-15, it is imperative they grow into NHL caliber players while learning the right attitude in which to approach the game.
In short what they need are character guys to emulate, and Callahan is among the best that this league has to offer.
Listen, this was a team (albeit under a different administration) that seemed desperate to offer 96-year old Shane Doan the moon to sign on, without even a quarter of the future potential the Sabres can now claim.
While that strategy was misguided at that time, this is the time to employ it. And with this player.
Next week the Sabres will make the #2 overall selection in the 2014 Entry Draft and, if their plan continues upon its current course, will select thrice in the 1st round of the heavily-touted 2015 draft. That’s a lot of new, incredible talent to add to arguably the best farm system in the NHL.
And that’s without mentioning the glut of 2nd round picks the Blue and Gold possess. (Except for, you know, when I just mentioned it here.)
With all of that in mind Ryan Callahan would be absolutely perfect for the Buffalo Sabres. So…
What’s in it for Him?
Well for starters, almost certainly a contract featuring several years at dozens of millions.
Next, Callahan is from nearby Rochester. Which from Buffalo is a little more than one hour betwixt Interstate 90 toll booths on the New York Thruway; he’ll get to go home.
Also, he’s only 29 and will be until March of 2015; younger than almost every single top 2014 unrestricted free agent with the exception of 28 year-old Paul Stastny.
And most importantly, he’ll still be relatively young when the entirety of amazing talent that the Sabres are currently (and about to) stockpile(ing) begin to gel.
Meaning he could not only find himself on the back nine of his contract playing for multiple Eastern Conference dynamos, but perhaps be on that long-awaited inaugural Sabres team to at long last have its name etched onto Lord Stanley’s Cup.
It’s also no stretch to imagine he’d be offered the captaincy vacated by Steve Ott upon his trade to Missouri, and use it to provide years of guidance before handing it off to Zemgus Girgensons.
So I ask you, reader: if it were you, would you be willing to accept $40+ million to play in front of your friends and family, on perhaps the best up-and-coming team in the National Hockey League, for six or seven years? To perhaps be regarded a local sports legend for the rest of your days by a team that would absolutely love to perpetually honor you?
While I cannot answer that for either you or Ryan Callahan, I can answer it for me:
I’m from Hartford, Connecticut, and if the Whalers ever came back I might do that for free. And of course by “free,” I mean “not anywhere even close to free.” But I’d still love it.
Shortly, we’ll see if GM Tim Murray agrees.