I really wanted to do a preview of the Devils game tomorrow, but I just can’t stand the Devils. They are everything that is boring about the game of hockey, and I’m never excited about playing them. I’ll go into tomorrow praying we put forth some real effort, and maybe we’ll come away with two points. Hey, we’re only how many points out of a playoff spot?
Anyways, one of my favorite hockey sites is nhlnumbers.com. When I’m bored I tend to drift over there and imagine how this team is going to look in a few years. It states pretty clearly that it is not exact, but information like that can help give you an idea of what players are making, and at the very least tell you what their status will be at year’s end.
I’m nowhere near a hockey expert, but I want to know things like “Paul Gaustad is going to be an RFA in July.” Not only does that let me start throwing numbers around in my head, but that’s good to know if you are looking at getting a Sabres jersey anytime soon. Trust me, you want to get at least a few years of use out of your jersey; those aren’t getting any cheaper these days.
The point is that I worry. Sure, we have a lot of choices to make on the defensive end this summer, but beyond Goose and Paille’s RFA status we are looking pretty good at forward. (As commenter Dave put it, “I’m done with the Mike Ryan experiment”) But what about next year?
That’s where things get iffy. A quick look at the board shows Max, Kotalik, and Timmy as UFAs, along with Miller, Jaro, and some pieces parts. That’s a quarter of the team possibly going onto the open market. Yikes.
Of course there’s the chance we re-sign someone in the near future. I would hope priority #1 is Ryan Miller, then a toss up between the three forwards previously mentioned. (Peters can sign an AHL only contract with the Manitoba Moose for all I care) My personal pick is Connolly, only because I feel he is progressing and we could still sign him with numbers similar to what he has now.
Another concern is the RFA status of Jason Pomminville. Regardless of how I feel about his play, he is putting up decent numbers this year and last year had a breakout season on Briere’s line. No matter what he puts up in 08/09, he’s going to want a huge increase in salary from his first contract. I doubt anything less than $3 mill will do.
Add that to the inevitable inflation of Miller’s price, some combination of Connolly/Max/Ales, Stafford’s RFA offer, as well as whatever we decide to do with Spacek’s contract and, well… someone isn’t going to be on this team anymore.
It’s a simple matter of numbers. There isn’t enough money for the players we have, and no one is going to take a hit just so they can play together. I know it’s a bit ridiculous to look at things almost two years away, but I can’t help but glance at this with the trade deadline looming. Maybe the right move is to trade one of those expiring 08/09 UFA deals and make some things happen in the present, or even get an extension in place now and work off of that. Some real progress was made when Hecht was extended in October, and it really set up how this summer will be handled by Darcy and Co.
The point is, you better pick your favorite players and hold on tight, boys and girls. This “magic” everyone wanted Danny and Dru to feel just isn’t there anymore. No matter how this season turns out in the record books, it’s going to get a bit hairy these next few summers. I’m sure Bucky is delighted.