Breaking the Bank

By Chris

Drew Stafford scored again last night. That seems to have become a regular occurrence.

However, as Chris Klejdys wisely points out, the Sabres shouldn’t rush to re-sign him. Jason Pominville scored 80 points in 2007-08 and that, combined with a 34-goal performance the year before, earned him the hefty contract extension. His final years of restricted free agency were wiped out by that contract. Stafford is set to become a restricted free agent this summer.

Since then, Pominville’s point totals have been more similar to that first season (68) than the second. He scored 66 in ’09, 60 last season and, because he’s been slowed by injury, he’s on pace for 52 points this season.

After that big 80-point campaign, the Sabres targeted Pominville as a player they needed to keep around. And he is a good two-way player with a great shot that will consistently net your team around 65 points a year. However he hasn’t shown that he’ll regularly hit 37 goals or dish out 50 assists again, but that’s essentially what his contract is based on.

Looking at Stafford, he’s shown flashes in the past that he can be a great goal scorer. It hasn’t been until this season — particularly this new calendar year — that he’s really broken out. In 37 games this season, he’s already eclipsed his professional career-high in goals and has matched his career-high in points.

He’s had some injury problems but they haven’t become anything to really worry about yet. He’ll be one of the most sought after restricted free agents this offseason considering the unrestricted class is pretty weak. If the Sabres don’t lock him up, he’ll probably receive an offer sheet from another team.

It’s going to be Terry Pegula’s call whether or not the Sabres should invest a lot of money into Stafford’s talents. There’s no question that he’s been dynamite this season. However, as we’ve also seen with Ryan Miller this season, one fantastic season can be an exception to the rule.

Pegula is going to have to find out what makes Stafford tick, why he suddenly looks like the player the Sabres spent a first-round pick on, what exactly he did and thought about in the offseason that made him arrive at training camp so prepared and how dedicated he is to the sport. Basically, really get inside Stafford’s head. Those are answers that we on the outside can speculate on and take what’s said publicly at face value.

We on the outside don’t have millions of dollars at stake in a commodity like Stafford. We’re not signing the guaranteed checks. Keeping him on long-term needs to be more than a public relations move.

I don’t envy the decision Pegula has to make. I like what Stafford’s shown this season, but it’s hard enough to project how he’s going to play next week let alone three years from now. It’s one of the risks involved.

Pominville is a good player, and so is Stafford, but in a cap-conscious league, overpaying for production that won’t come isn’t the way to win multiple Stanley Cups.


One Comment

  1. Mike

    I wouldn’t mind overpaying if it was a short, incentive laden contract. But otherwise, yeah, no. We’ve been burned too badly.