Sudden Impact: Ryan Callahan, Buffalo Sabres A Perfect Match

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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.

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Tags: Buffalo Sabres NHL Free Agents NHL News Ryan Callahan

  • Chris

    This would be a great free agent START…. Sabres need 2 or 3 good vets like a Callahan ro help guide and lead the wealth of younger players they DO have…. Callahan and 2 other proven vets would bring instant credibility to Tim Murray’s program in Buffalo…..They are out there…. let’s see if the Sabres go after them for instant improvement. I think Murray is right… it doesnt and wont take 3 yrs to rebuild the team to a formidable force.

    • Chris Gay

      I hear what you’re saying, and I agree they do need more that one good veteran. However I think the plan is to finish low one more year to reap the benefits of the 2015 Draft and then put this rebuild in the rear view mirror. In short, I don’t think they’re looking for instant improvement in 2014-15.

  • jimbobv2

    The problem with signing Callahan isn’t over the next year or two. The problem comes 4 or 5 years down the road if the market causes his contract to be something like $6M per over 7 years.

    Then Callahan runs the real chance of being a 3rd or 4th line player making top line money.

    Think Chris Drury with the Rangers.

    I like the idea of Ryan Callahan on the Sabres next season. I don’t like the idea of Callahan making $6M+ in 2019-20.

    • Chris Gay

      I don’t think it’d be that big a deal even then because $6 million in 2019 may be like $4 million now. The Sabres have the money, & the Cap should be well increased by then.

      I guess look at it like this: in 7 years when the contract for $6M would be up Callahan would be 36. Two years back the Sabres were trying to give Shane Doan nearly $7M over 4 years and he was 36 at that time. (I’m not saying that that would’ve been a great idea, of course)

      Buffalo would be getting a great deal of leadership for their bucks over that time, too.

      I do see where you are coming from and I appreciate your opinion.

      • jimbobv2

        Doan brings a ton more offense to the table AND all the leadership that Callahan does.

        $6M+ per year is a lot to pay a guy that will likely never hit 50 pts in a season for the Sabres.

        Drew Stafford has more 50 pt seasons than Callahan, for example.

        Andrew Ladd is a great comparable for Callahan and he’s on a 5 yr $4.4M per year contract.

        If the Sabres could get Callahan to a contract like that, then fine. But, he’ll want a lot more than that to sign here.

        And while the cap will rise, the Sabres will have a lot of good young kids coming off ELCs in the future. If a lot of the kids hit their ceilings, the Sabres will need cap space to keep them.

        • Chris Gay

          Doan was already 36 at that time; Callahan’s 29. I think that the next few years it’ll be very important for Buffalo to have strong leadership/characters veterans with all of the new draft picks they’re going to have. Perhaps now more than ever. That’s why I think the need for those intangibles are magnified now. They waived Leino today; that was a good start. Signing Callahan would be another good move. I guess we’ll see what Tim Murray opts to do.

          • jimbobv2

            If they sign Callahan, it will be a situation where I like the player and hate the contract.

            And the Sabres will be hoping for a CBO window after the next CBA….

  • davidmuscalo

    Callahan would be a great fit for the Sabres’. It’s up to Murray and Terry to make the deal that will bring him to Buffalo. Character is what this team has lacked for a long time, and character is, in my opinion, Callahan’s biggest asset. Murray has to stop promising to improve the team; he has to make the moves to do so.

    • Chris Gay

      I agree that character will count a lot for Buffalo over the next few development years. And now that Murray’s finally into his first offseason, & with the draft coming up, we’ll finally see some of what he’s looking to accomplish.