It’s been almost two weeks since the Senators ended the Sabres season, and now that we’re a month away from the start of unrestricted free agency, it sounds like a great time to seriously look what the Sabres could (and should) do in order to maintain their status as legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. We’re going to call this “Part One” just because it’s our first look into the Sabres golf season. Each day I’ll be going through various aspects of the Sabres roster and what to expect next season. Today we’ll be looking at two of the most prominent pairings in Buffalo: Darcy Regier and Lindy Ruff and Chris Drury and Daniel Briere.
The Front Office
Neither Darcy Regier nor Lindy Ruff has a contract for next season. Generally, this would be a problem, but everyone and their grandmother expects them both to return to the Sabres front office. The way I see it, as long as Larry Quinn is calling the shots as a Managing Partner, I can’t see either of them going anywhere. Quinn was responsible for the pair’s hiring in 1996 and was a strong advocate for retaining both after Tom Golisano bought the team prior to the 2003 season. It’s a sure thing that they’ll be running the team next season, the bigger question is why hasn’t anything official been announced yet.
Chris Drury and Daniel Briere could both be back next season. They could also both be gone. The certainty we feel about Ruff and Regier returning is a complete turn-around from what could happen with player personnel next season. It’s very hard to get a sense of what either Drury or Briere is thinking because both say the things we want to hear. Both would like another shot with the same group of players. They generally like playing with each other and want to get the job done here. But money talks.
Briere seems very willing to test the free agent market, saying that Buffalo will have the first and best shot at signing him. He’s definitely looking at other options and any $7 million offer from rebuilding Philadelphia will be hard to turn down. He’s one of the main reasons for the Sabres turn around and he could see an opportunity there for him to rejuvenate another franchise. He says he loves the community and wants to stay here because it would be best for his family, but a contract worth close to $50 million would also be very good for his family. I’d like to see Briere back. It’s hard to replace 95 points. And it’s a scary thought that Tim Connolly could be the top line center next season, when it’s possible that he could die at any moment. I just don’t think there’s any way that the Sabres can match his market value, especially since they’ve said that they’re not willing raise their cap number despite what happens to the salary cap league-wide.
Drury is a different story. In nearly every article we’ve ever seen about him, it references him as a winner that will do whatever it takes to turn a team into a contender. He doesn’t sound like the type of guy that would mail it in with a losing team like Los Angeles just for something in the realm of a $40 million deal and the chance to be closer to his summer home on the West Coast, which is what the various rumor mills are suggesting. Drury has the ability to extend his legend and turn Buffalo into a champion and I wonder if he’ll want to leave Buffalo as a “loser” with an unfulfilled goal of bringing a Stanley Cup to the area. That could be enough motivation right there for him to come back. Although if there is any stock to the “House in LA” rumor, then San Jose and Anaheim would be more realistic options than the loser Kings. San Jose would allow him to reunite with Mike Grier and Anaheim’s proven, seeing where they are right now in the Cup Finals. Although neither of those teams would be “his” and both would have to work hard to fit him into their budget. He has a chance to succeed in Buffalo and leave his mark on a franchise with the Sabres.
If I were Regier, I would be sending Golisano’s money to Drury, it’s just a matter if the feeling is mutual.