That’s all the time the Sabres have left to evaluate stud prospect Tyler Myers and essentially determine the course of his professional career.
With Toni Lydman nursing a hand injury and Mike Weber back in the minors, it looks like Myers will have a chance to play in actual NHL games this season. From what I saw of him in the preseason home game against Toronto, he should be OK even if there are a few bumps and bruises along the way.
Chances are Lydman won’t miss nine games so Myers will need to really impress in order to knock someone out of the lineup. Craig Rivet, Chris Butler, Steve Montador, Andrej Sekera and even Lydman to an extent is safe (Ruff has put a lot of trust in Lydman the last few years).
Henrik Tallinder and Nathan Paetsch are the ones with targets on their back. Both are unrestricted free agents at the end of the season and neither looks to be in the Sabres long-term plans.
If the front office decides that Myers can hack it in the NHL this season, the easiest thing to do (if they’re unable to trade either, which is very likely because there’s no chance they buy a player out), would be to waive either Tallinder or Paetsch.
Then two things can happen:
1. Someone claims them off waivers and the Sabres lose a player they had little intention of keeping on the roster anyways.
2. No one claims them and the Sabres are stuck paying either Tallinder $3.25 million or Paetsch $1.05 million to play in Portland. But once they clear waivers, they’re eligible to move up and down all season and that would give the Sabres some flexibility.
(There probably is some kind of crazy loophole third result but I don’t have the CBA memorized anymore.)
Tallinder and Paetsch are known commodities and there’s not much more room for them to grow. With Myers, there’s tons of upside and it’s tough to see him regress with NHL-level coaching and conditioning.
It all depends on how he looks after these nine games. There may be a tendency for him to push too hard because he’s basically still trying out. But if he can keep his composure and keep the jitters down to a minimum, then I have no problem with him learning on the job a year or two earlier than the Sabres anticipated.
(And while we’re at it, can we get Myers and Kennedy some real hockey numbers? Watching No. 57 and No. 58 on the ice just doesn’t look right — unless, of course, you’re Steve Heinze).
When you factor in injuries, this is probably what we’re looking at on Saturday:
(Mair and Stafford in the press box with injuries)
(Paetsch and Lydman scratched)