Here’s a transcription of the Sabres press conference today regarding the Steve Bernier and Craig Rivet trades. Also some info on where the team stands with Ryan Miller, Maxim Afinogenov and Jason Smith. I’ll be interjecting briefly here and there.
Media: Can you fill us in, so far, on the two transactions today? Is that it for today?
Darcy Regier: That’s it for today. We’ve obviously traded Steve Bernier to Vancouver and really the focal point was to acquire a defenseman in this process. So effectively use the assets in the Steve Bernier trade to acquire Craig Rivet and we think we’ve accomplished filling a very important need for the hockey club. Craig brings tremendous leadership, character. He’s a proven veteran and a very good player. So when I think you put him in with our hockey club he’ll make a very significant contribution to this team.
Were we all wrong to think that Bernier seemed to be an important part of the future when he was acquired for Brian [Campbell]? Did something happen there? Was it an issue of not being able to sign him; did he want too much?
No, I think when you looked at our right wing, we really had six right wingers there. So it was a situation in which we looked at the right side, we looked at the individual players and we knew that we had to add to our defense. We really came down to who could we move in order to acquire the defenseman. It took two separate deals but that was really the decision. The decision was to take one of our quality forwards and acquire a quality defenseman.
So it looks like Afinogenov will still be around. And of all the right wingers to trade for picks (Afinogenov, Kotalik, Pominville, Stafford and Kaleta), they choose Bernier? Okaaaay…
The quality that Craig brings, most of it is leadership and experience, and physicality, too.
That’s right. He’s got a physical aspect to his game. So when you look at those three components, you look at some of the young guys that we have coming up, whether it’s Sekera, Weber, in hopes that they make our hockey club, I think that the blending of the experience and the youth going forward is going to be a very good for us.
It’ll be nice having a guy on the blueline that isn’t afraid to hit people. I’ve wanted a big mean Canadian defenseman since Rhett Warrener left. We had Brad Brown for awhile (but he kind of sucked) and Jay McKee was that guy for one year, so maybe Rivet can finally fill that void and do it well for three more years.
Obviously you’re comfortable getting Rivet basically in essence of Campbell and the draft picks because that’s basically what happened.
Yeah I guess you can reduce really, we acquired a first, a second and a third round pick for Brian and then used that to acquire a first pick and Craig Rivet. So I think it’ll prove out well.
We’ll know in the year 2017. We need to see if Tyler Ennis was worth a first rounder and how those two picks work out. So Rivet can bomb, but the trade might still be a success if two of those other four aspects become something that can help the team. Gotta love fundamentally building a franchise via trades and the draft.
Have you had any inquiries about some of the other players like Maxim Afinogenov? Have you had a number of teams call you on him? Is there anything going on, on that front?
No, the Max front is very quiet. I expect Max to start with us based on the activity of the summer. I think Max will, the focal point will be for him to, if he’s here, I expect he will be here, to kind of regain his form and have the type of year that he had two years ago.
Worst news of the day. It’s time to cut ties with Afinogenov and his $3.33 million cap hit. As exciting as he may be, he’s even more frustrating. I guess the fact is that no one even wants him so we’re essentially stuck with him. When I talked to Ryan, he wouldn’t even be shocked if Max was signed to an extension if he bounces back. I think I’m going to be sick.
Are you happy with where the blue line is now? Are you looking to pick up maybe someone else; I know you were kind of linked to Jason Smith earlier in the week too.
I think we were linked to everybody that was available that hasn’t been signed yet. We will look, continue to look for ways to improve our defense but I think the goaltending’s been covered. I think it’s been a great addition for our defense. Our forwards were in good shape going into the off season. In fact we had too many forwards. So if we had an area where he had extra depth, it was really up front and we did what wanted to do which was convert some of that back into the defense.
I still think the Sabres need to re-sign someone like Pratt to split time with Paetsch in the sixth spot. As much as I like Weber, I don’t think he’s ready to take on that kind of role. Plus, if two guy get hurt on the blue line (very likely to happen), we’re looking at Weber and someone like T.J. Brennan in the top six. Not good news. We’re still thin on proven defensemen.
Have any further talks with Ryan Miller’s agent? Any updates on his situation?
No but I expect we’ll talk with either Ryan and/or his agent in the next couple days.
And from the talks you’ve had do you think Ryan wants to stay here long-term?
No I think Ryan hates Buffalo and wants no part of our cheap ass organization. I’m actually wondering why I even bothered coming back last summer for three more years. I guess it’s probably because I wouldn’t be able to get work anywhere else. Look at poor Dave Nonis. He had to crawl back to Brian Burke. I don’t want to look that desperate. Come on. What do you think he’s going to say? He’s going to give fans hope that Miller won’t turn his backs on us at the end of the year when he signs with Detroit.
I do think he wants to stay here long-term. I’m optimistic. We’ll know more when we hear back from his side but I remain optimistic with respect to Ryan.
How do you think the impact might have been of some of the other goaltenders signing a potential contract for Ryan?
Well I don’t think it altered the marketplace significantly. Huet is not as…is obviously an outstanding goaltender. I think the only reason he’s not in Montreal is because you’ve got one of the best young goaltenders in an awful long time entering the league in Carey Price. And I think if you look Fluery’s contract in Pittsburgh, it’s reflective of the market as well. I don’t think there’s been any significant upward movement in that marketplace.
I can’t believe Darcy made sense of that question. It literally took me ten minutes to transcribe it, trying to get the syntax mostly right.
Can you be a little more specific on Rivet’s game and what he brings to the table? Obviously he spent a lot of years in the Eastern Conference.
Yeah he did.
Does he have a role on special teams, what will that role be? How does he round out your defense corps?
Well, I think if you look at his numbers, he may have had the best offensive year of his career. When you look at 35 points in 74 games, he’s someone that can certainly contribute on the power play, he’s going to play in penalty kill situations. He’s logged over 20 minutes a game in San Jose. I think he’s a guy that can help on both sides, offensively and defensively.
Do you think you have enough depth there at defense now or before the season yo need to acquire a little more depth there, considering that Mike and Andrej are maybe bound for this team?
Depth-wise I think we’re OK. If we can add to it we certainly will but I’m pretty comfortable with where we are depth-wise right now.
I wouldn’t be shocked at all if they decided that they’re really not that comfortable with Paetsch playing a regular role. That guy turning into Jeff Jillson last year really screwed up their plans on the blueline. Thank goodness Sekera stepped up (and hopefully he won’t pull a Paestch).
Is Jason Smith still a possibility? Is he still on the radar?
I had a conversation with his agent yesterday. I have not spoken to him today. I know he was close to making a deal. Is he on the radar? Well we’ve had…We’ll see where it goes. I haven’t talked to him today. He may be signed for all we know.
Happy to see we’re actively pursuing him. And from what’s been reported, he hasn’t been signed. Yet. One year, $2.5 million. Do it, Darcy.
Any update on Paille and Macarthur? Any talks with them yet?
I did talk to Danny Paille’s agent today and we played telephone tag with Clarke’s agent the other day so those talks will continue.
How important is it for you to get a defenseman for you in the first few days of free agency?
I think at some point in the summertime we needed to add a defenseman. When you look at the marketplace it was quickly drying up in the free agency. When we looked at the unrestricted free agency marketplace for defensemen, and looked at the cost of doing business in that area, we made the decision to look in the trade route, trade marketplace. We think that Craig is an outstanding addition to this hockey club.
So Henrik Lundqvist is basically, is that approximately where you think Ryan’s numbers might be?
I wouldn’t attach it to one individual goalie. I really think it’s a group of goaltenders that Ryan belongs with and will be treated fairly amongst that group.
Miller is a top eight goaltender. He’ll be paid like a top four in this marketplace. I can live with that.