Tim Connolly is scheduled to be a Buffalo Sabre until the summer of 2011.
There are a lot of people who would have viewed this as crazy talk back in October. In fact, even today there are a lot of people who don’t like the fact that Connolly is under contract for another two seasons. However, something interesting has happened this year with regard to our collective opinion of Tim Connolly, and I think that has a lot to do with how we feel about this contract.
If you remember as far back as last season, I said that guys like Kotalik, Connolly, and Afinogenov will be in very similar situations this season and therefore playing against each other. All three are playing for new contracts, and only one has the potential to sign with the Sabres at season’s end. I wrote about each case and asked people to pick who they thought would be worth keeping after this season. Here were the results:
Which Sabre is most likely to make “The Leap”?
Tim Connolly 13 (22%)
Ales Kotalik 27 (46%)
Maxim Afinogenov 18 (31%)
Halfway through the season I mentioned it again, and the results were very different. By then Afinogenov had been struggling beyond belief and injured, leaving Kotalik and Connolly as the two choices. Here were their numbers at that point:
Kotalik 40GP, 10G, 13A, 23PTS, -5, 20PIM, 12PPP (.575PPG)
Connolly 13GP, 5G, 5A, 10PTS, -1, 0PIM, 4PPP (.769PPG)
The general consensus we got from this post was that the guy to keep was Connolly, but he had to come cheap. There was no exact definition of “cheap”, but presumably it would mean at or below his current cap hit of $2.9 million. I held that opinion as well, but as the season went on and his points per game rose, more and more people were hoping Tim Connolly would re-sign with the Sabres before the trade deadline.
He did, but we all know it wasn’t for “cheap”.
As Chris and I were live-blogging the day, we each posted some brief thoughts on the deal on the page. We both had the same thoughts on it: wow that’s a lot of money, but I’m glad he signed. In fact, I think everyone who wanted Tim Connolly to come back next season wound up saying the same thing. I think Kevin said it best:
That doesn’t necessarily mean I don’t like re-signing Connolly. Everybody and their brother has already thrown in the obligatory “IF he stays healthy” disclaimer, so it has become unnecessary to do so at this point. In fact, that’s a safe thing to say about any player. That being said, I’ve grown rather fond of our little version of Napoleon Dynamite, and I know it’s the sentimental fan in me talking but I hope he performs up to his contract and surprises all of us. The one thing Buffalo’s management can’t do next year is blame a Connolly injury for their woes if it were to happen. You decided to roll the dice, you have to live with the results.
For a lot of people there was an element of sentimentality involved in our reaction. I’ve said over and over again how much I like Tim Connolly’s game, but watching him over the years has been a frustrating exercise to say the least. But through all the problems with Tim Connolly, his strength is this: when he is in the lineup he produces.
His points per game has hovered around fantastic throughout his career, and that single reason is why he is coming back in October. The Sabres choose an injury-prone points machine over an erratic speed skater and a seldom-used cannon, and if you ask most fans they would tell you they made the right choice.
That doesn’t mean they like the contract, though. I’ll admit, I don’t like it either. I was shocked when I woke up Wednesday morning and word was the Sabres were talking $4 million per year, and I was even more surprised when I found out the actual total was 2 years, $9 million. That’s a lot of money to sink into a player who hasn’t shown long-term consistency, and it’s almost redundant at this point to talk about it any further.
Still, it will be hindsight that tells the tale here. There were plenty of people (myself included) who loved the Hecht signing last year, and many of those same fans (not including me) were wondering if he could get shipped out of town. We’re just a few short months away from Jason Pominville’s $5.3 million deal to kick in, and he’s certainly not playing up to that standard this year. We really won’t know what the right move was until we get there, but I’m still with the many who are glad he’s still on this team.
I suppose this means we’ll have plenty to talk about for the next two years.