Tag:Buffalo Sabres
Posted on: September 17, 2011 4:23 pm
 

Canucks will look to Edler to replace Ehrhoff

Edler1

By: Adam Gretz

Over the past two seasons no defenseman on the Vancouver Canucks roster provided more offense than Christian Ehrhoff's 28 goals and 66 assists.

The veteran defenseman moved on this summer, signing a lucrative -- some might say outrageous -- contract with the Buffalo Sabres that will make him one of the highest paid players in the NHL this season with a salary of $10 million. The contract carries an average annual salary of $4 million, which isn't all that bad for a player that produces like he has -- until you remember that it runs for 10 seasons and Ehrhoff will be 39 when it expires.

Still, Ehrhoff has proven to be a productive player and one of Vancouver's top defenseman, and such production from the blue line would seem to be difficult to replace. Captain Henrik Sedin has an interesting perspective on Ehrhoff's absence and how the team will work to replace him.

From Brad Ziemer of the Vancouver Sun:
“He was in a spot where I think we have other guys who can step up and play in that role,” Sedin said, clearly referring to Ehrhoff’s power-play time. “Alex [Edler] is going to get more responsibility and we have a healthy Sami Salo now, and we have some other guys who are going to play a few more minutes.

“I think on the back end we were deep last year and we are deep this year. So I don’t think we should lose too much.”

A large percentage of Ehrhoff's point production came on the power play the past two seasons, while the Canucks put him in situations where, more often than not, he was starting a shift in the offensive zone as opposed to the defensive zone. He also was usually on the ice with the Sedin twins. Back when Ehrhoff originally signed his contract with the Sabres, Gabriel Desjardins at Arctic Ice Hockey put together an analysis of how the Canucks used Ehrhoff and how favorable it was for the defenseman to put up points.

From AIH back in late June:

40% of the time that Christian Ehrhoff was on the ice, the Sedins were there too.  Ehrhoff got easy ice time - either the 5th- or 6th-softest on the team this season, and the highest percentage of faceoffs in the offensive zone among the defensive corps.

Not only that, but he didn't outshine his teammates in scoring at 5-on-5

Obviously when you're playing with players like the Sedin twins, on the power play, and in a position where you're starting closer to the goal you're trying to score on offensive production is going to be slightly easier to come by, and that's the situation Ehrhoff usually found himself in as a member of the Canucks. That's not to say that Ehrhoff is a bad player or that he'll be easily replaceable, it just may not be as hard as one might expect. The Canucks still have some impressive depth on the blue line with Dan Hamhuis, Alexander Edler, Kevin Bieksa, Keith Ballard and Sami Salo. It's still an excellent group.

Edler, 25, will likely take over Ehrhoff's role and he seems more than capable of leading the Canucks blue line from an offensive perspective. In just 51 games last season he finished with eight goals and 23 assists, which followed seasons where he recorded 42 and 37 points respectively. It should be interesting to see what sort of boost -- if any -- his production gets this season taking on more power play responsibilities and filling the role that belonged to Ehrhoff the past two seasons.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: September 15, 2011 9:52 am
Edited on: September 15, 2011 11:36 am
 

Sabres' Myers gets 7-year, $38.5M extension

By Brian Stubits

Yesterday the news came down that an extension for Tyler Myers was close in Buffalo. Today the deal is done after Myers and the Sabres reached a seven-year deal.

"We had two sides that wanted to stay together," Myers' agent, J.P. Barry, told the Buffalo News on Wednesday. "Tyler wanted to remain a Sabre, and having this done at an early stage was something that he wanted. He's happy that the club approached him about wanting to do this early."

A short while after the team announced the seven-year deal, the numbers on the contract slipped out. From Darren Dreger at TSN: "Myers 7 years, $38.5. $10M signing bonus July 1, 2012, the first day of ext. That means over a quarter of the contract is paid on day one." The Associated Press confirmed the value of the contract.

That part about the signing bonus and so much being paid on the first day is bound to raise some eyebrows. The contract is incredibly front-loaded, somewhat similar to many of the contracts that have drawn criticism in recent years, most notably Marian Hossa's and Ilya Kovalchuk's. But moreover, many are viewing it as an indication of the labor situation in the NHL.

From TSN's Bob McKenzie:

"Myers' $10M SB amounts to lockout protection. IF there were, say, season-long lockout, he'd still get his $10M, only lose $2M in salary."

With the length of the contract, it will take Myers until he is 28 and if an extension isn't signed before then, he will be eligible for unrestricted free agency. Of course, with the way things are starting to go in Buffalo with new ownership, I'm not too sure why he would be interested in leaving if the future really is as bright as it seems.

Myers, one of the biggest players in NHL history at 6-feet-8, won the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie two seasons when he scored 11 goals with 37 assists and a plus-13. A debut season like that had people envisioning the next Zdeno Chara, a mountain of a man with a massive shot on the blueline. But he regressed some last season, seeing his point total dip by 11.

I must admit, I'm leery of such a long contract. There are very few players that I'd be comfortable signing to such a long deal and they are of the Alex Ovechkin/Steven Stamkos mold. It's just a risky proposition, you never know what could happen.

But of course the other side of the coin is that it gives the Sabres long-term stability at an important position with a potential perennial all-star.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: September 14, 2011 11:11 am
Edited on: September 14, 2011 4:47 pm
 

Sabres defenseman Myers close to extension

By Brian Stubits

According to reports, the Sabres are close to locking down their young star Tyler Myers with a long-term extension. He is set to become a restricted free agent after next season when his entry-level contracts expire.

TSN's Bob McKenzie says Myers' deal would likely be in the six-year range for roughly $5.5 million per season, about the same length and money the Islanders just gave to John Tavares. Although Myers could be looking at an additional year onto the six years thrown out by McKenzie, according to ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun.

Myers made an immediate impact in the NHL, earning the Calder Memorial Trophy for the league's top rookie. Standing 6-feet-8, he is a massive presence, who almost seems stronger than even he knows. His offensive numbers did dip a bit in his second season, recording 10 fewer assists and one less goal, but he's still seen as a huge part of the team's plan moving forward (literally and figuratively). Myers attributed his step back last season to trying to do too much.

If it goes through, it would be a pretty hefty price tag and the Sabres would clearly be banking on Myers showing his freshman year form again down the line.

A couple of other contract updates while we're at it here:

  The Maple Leafs appear to also be on the verge of a deal with their young star Luke Schenn (Toronto Sun)

  However the Coyotes and Kyle Turris don't appear to be any closer to an extension in their negotiations. (Andy Strickland)

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: September 13, 2011 9:51 am
 

Daily Skate: Charges for Byfuglien? Captain picks

By Brian Stubits

GETTING TOUGH ON BYFUGLIEN: Dustin Byfuglien is facing criminal charges for his foray on Lake Minnetonka over Labor Day weekend. The Winnipeg Free Press reports the district attorney has given the OK for the sheriff's office to formally charge Byfuglien with drunk boating.

CAPTAIN CAROUSEL: In the last week David Backes has been named the captain of the Blues and Ryan Callahan picked to lead the Rangers. But there are still six vacant positions across the NHL, so Pro Hockey Talk took the liberty of picking a captain for the remaining teams. Among the nominees is John Tavares for the Islanders.

CONCUSSION CRACKDOWN: With the attention on concussions growing every day in the NHL with each high-profile case, the concern is trickling down. Canadian youth leagues are planning to begin putting players as young as 10 through the same tests as NHL players this upcoming season (ESPN.com).

BICK IS BACK: After missing some of the seven-game series against the Canucks in the first round of the playoffs, the Blackhawks' Bryan Bickell is recovered and ready for the season (Chicago Tribune). He had surgery in April to repair two lacerated tendons, an incident that happened in Game 2 against the Canucks. He did return in time for Chicago's wins in Games 4, 5 and 6 but wasn't the same.

MAKE THAT TWO: The Sabres are in the same position with Jason Pominville as the Blackhawks and Bickell. They weren't counting on having Pominville back in time for training camp (Buffalo News) after having a tendon severed in the playoff series against the Flyers, but his recovery has gone faster than expected and he "[doesn't] think there will be any issue."

GREAT EXPECTATIONS: The Dallas Stars don't have high expectations this season, and that's great for the team, Brendan Morrow says. He told Kevin Allen of USA Today that the Stars have plenty of young talent to surprise as underdogs, and it starts with Jamie Benn and Alex Goligoski.

SEEKERS OF THE CUP: As the release of EA Sports' NHL 12 told us on Tuesday, hockey season is right around the corner. Here's a great promo video from the MSG Network in New York for the metro area's three teams, the Rangers, Devils and Islanders.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: August 29, 2011 2:26 pm
Edited on: August 29, 2011 2:59 pm
 

Eastern Conference spots seem set for some time

By Brian Stubits

Sometimes simple and obvious things just hit you. Things you had realized before but for some reason they jump to your attention again. It tends to happen a lot more often during the lazy hockey days of summer.

That's exactly what happened when I began to think about the makeup of hockey markets/organizations, particularly in the Eastern Conference. What popped into my head was the fact that the contenders this season are likely to be the same as they were last season, and for the most part the same they were the season before that. And it's likely they will remain the contenders for the season after next, too.

At that moment I realized the NHL is starting to resemble the NBA in a way. And that's not good. One of the biggest reasons the NBA is in a lockout that seems to have no end in sight (Ken Berger and the Eye on Basketball guys have that covered) is the very issue that only a handful of teams enter every season with a chance to win the Larry O'Brien Trophy. Everybody's favorite stat about the (lack of) parity in the NBA is the simple fact that since 1984, only eight different organizations have won the championship. That's eight teams in 28 seasons.

Now look at the Eastern Conference in hockey. The Capitals have been atop their division for four straight seasons. The Penguins and Flyers are perennial contenders. Same goes for the Bruins while the Rangers, Canadiens and Sabres are regulars in the 5-8 range in the standings.

Of course that leaves teams like the Islanders (four-year playoff drought), Maple Leafs (six-year drought), Jets/Thrashers (one appearance in franchise history), Hurricanes (perennial contender for first runnerup these days) and the Panthers (10-year drought) to fend at the bottom.

So where do these teams fit? When you have a team like the Islanders seeming ready to step up and compete for the playoffs, who are they going to surpass? The Eastern Conference is full of traditional hockey markets in the American northeast and Canada, big markets either in hockey-crazy cities and ones with rich histories. The West has a few of those as well -- namely Vancouver, Detroit and Chicago -- but not as many as the East.

But have a look at the chart below detailing the past four seasons. Five teams have made the playoffs in each of those seasons and four teams have failed to advance beyond the regular season even once.

Last four seasons
Team Average finish (Eastern Conference) Playoff appearances 2011-12 payroll (capgeek.com)
Capitals 1.75 4 $65,190,128
Penguins 3.5 4 $62,737,500
Bruins 4.5 4 $56,682,976
Flyers 5 4 $64,124,761
Devils 5 3 $58,429,167
Canadiens 5.75 4 $59,770,510
Rangers 7.25 3 $62,935,334
Sabres 7.5 2 $67,895,357
Hurricanes 8.75 1 $49,775,000
Senators 9 2 $51,845,834
Lightning 11.5 1 $59,326,083
Maple Leafs 12.25 0 $59,115,000
Jets/Thrashers 12.25 0 $48,284,166
Panthers 12.25 0 $49,882,042
Islanders 13.75 0 $45,970,166

You get the feeling that at least five spots are locks in the East this year with two more almost assuredly the same. In the lock category you start with four of the five teams that have been staples: The Capitals, Penguins, Flyers and Bruins. Add in the up-and-coming Lightning for good measure. Hard to imagine any of those five not making it this season. In the next two spots I think you can add the Rangers and Sabres. With new owner Terry Pegula, the Sabres seem destined to become another playoff regular. These are teams that all improved (or in the case of Boston, didn't have to improve, but more or less stay in tact after winning the Stanley Cup) and were already playoff caliber.

By my stellar mathematical abilities, that leaves one spot essentially up for grabs. Among the group fighting for it will be the Canadiens (the other team to make it each of the past four seasons), Devils and, well, the rest of the conference. Outside of the Senators who are building for a few years from now and maybe the Jets, every team in the conference looks to be better now then they were at the end of last season.

And here's the thing: I don't see how it will be easy to unseat these teams at the top of the conference. Sure, you will have the occasional team slipping through like the Lightning. To extend the analogy back to the NBA, that's like the Oklahoma City Thunder building after years of struggle to a competitive level. But they still have to fight through the Lakers, Mavericks and Spurs, all of which are almost guaranteed to be in the hunt. It's hard to imagine a time when the Lakers won't be contenders, and when they have been (post-Shaquille O'Neal) they rebuilt in a hurry and won the title shortly thereafter.

That's what I'm seeing for the Eastern Conference, that kind of perennial favorite similarity. It makes sense, obviously. The best free agents will want to go to the best teams in the best hockey cities and the biggest pay checks. That's to be expected. And that's a huge reason why these teams are able to stay above the equator. It doesn't hurt to have the infrastructures they all have at their disposal, too. From fan support to smart organizational minds and moves, they win more often than not. Success begets success. It's no coincidence that these are also the teams most heavily featured on national TV.

Let's look at the Capitals. Owner Ted Leonsis has been mentioned his 10-to-15-year plan ... not a plan that calls for 10-to-15 years to win the Cup (although it's starting to look that way) but instead to keep the Caps a Cup contender for that time. And because Washington D.C. has shown itself to be a strong hockey market and is appealing to free agents, it's easy to see how the Caps can sustain that. You have a young Alexander Ovechkin on your roster? Lock him up! Just throw a 13-year contract in front of one of the sport's best players and he's aboard for the long haul. Try and do the same when you're in Tampa Bay and you have a situation where you are only able to secure Steven Stamkos for five seasons.

The reasons are obvious, much the same as the Yankees in baseball (and now the Red Sox). You can pen each of those teams into the playoffs before the season even starts and you are most likely going to be right. But this isn't supposed to happen in hockey, not with a supposedly game-evening hard salary cap. It's just the inherent advantages are too tough for a lot of teams to compete with. Essentially, the margin for error is razor thin for the lesser markets/organizations.

Toronto is the exception (sorry Leafs fans) to the big-market success model. It is probably the best hockey market in the NHL, has an incredibly devoted fan base and has not been afraid to spend. But even the Leafs are struggling these days to break that glass ceiling and butt their way into the playoffs. They couldn't beat out the Rangers for Brad Richards' services in free agency.

Now this is why they play the game. You can't lock in these teams to the playoffs. After all, who saw that Devils season coming last year? You still have to earn your way into the postseason. But if you are a fan of one of the bottom-feeders in the East, I'd suggest you cool your jets. The East's upper echelon is pretty well full of NHL aristocrats. The competition will be better and the spots will likely be more fiercely fought for, but it will be hard to break through.

In the West you can hear the mid-level teams saying "welcome to our world."

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: August 19, 2011 11:38 am
Edited on: August 19, 2011 1:44 pm
 

Chris Drury announces retirement after 12 seasons

By Brian Stubits

Chris Drury is retiring from hockey. He made the announcement through the NHLPA on Friday morning.

Drury, the Rangers captain, was bought out by New York and didn't find work after that. There had to be concerns about the degenerative condition in his knee that limited him to only 24 games last season and one goal.

Drury's best season came in 2006-07 with the Sabres. That season he scored 37 goals and had 32 assists.

He was also on hand for some of the Avalanche's best seasons, playing his first four years in the NHL in Colorado until 2001-02, winning the Stanley Cup with the Avs in '01. The following year he was traded to Calgary where he had a short stint with the Flames.

Adrian Dater of the Denver Post offers up a fond farewell to one of the key parts to the Avs' Cup run. Here's a taste:

Drury was beloved by Avs fans, even after he left in that ill-advised trade to Calgary in 2002. He was a heart-and-soul guy with a major knack for scoring clutch goals. At one point I remember writing, he had eight game-winning or overtime playoff goals with Colorado.

It hardly seems possible his career is finished. I can still remember the first time he came to Avs camp back in 1998, just a doughy-faced kid not that far removed from being a Little League World Series hero for his town of Trumbull, Conn. I remember his first Burgundy-White game down in Colorado Springs, when he immediately got challenged to a fight by Pascal Trepanier. Drury aced his first rite of passage by standing up for himself – something almost every NHL rookie has to do at some point.

He ended up in Buffalo and had a very strong three seasons with the Sabres. At that point, though, he became a free agent and signed with the Rangers, his hometown team considering his roots stem from Trumbull, Conn. When Jaromir Jagr left the Blueshirts, Drury was bestowed the C on his jersey, making him just the second American-born captain in Rangers history.

NHL writer Andy Strickland says this was a decision Drury knew was coming for some time. "Chris Drury has known he would be retiring for several weeks ... had a great career who delivered when it mattered." Strickland also shot down any notions that Drury had been in discussions with the Maple Leafs at any point about playing in Toronto. "There was speculation several weeks ago that Drury had met with Toronto GM Brian Burke...tis was 100% wrong ... never happened "

Unfortunately, such an injury made the decision somewhat easy for Drury to make -- from a decision standpoint, not emotional.

Because he had two years left on his contract, the Rangers will have Drury hitting the cap over that time. According to capgeek.com that will mean the Rangers will take a $3.72 million hit next season and a $1.67 million hit in 2012-13.

Among the reactions on Twitter came this tweet from Rangers backup goalie Marty Biron: "Congrats to a friend and teammate on a great career. Chris Drury, you'll always be one of the best captain I've had the chance to play with."

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: August 19, 2011 10:03 am
 

Daily Skate: Sabres need cuts; NHL bands

By Brian Stubits

FADE TO BLACK: After an offseason that netted them Christian Ehrhoff and Ville Leino among others, Sabres fans can't wait for the season to start. But before that can happen, Buffalo still has to take care of its little salary cap problem. It's a bit hard to believe but the Sabres now have the league's highest payroll, thanks in large part to the man in charge, Terry Pegula. As a result, the Sabres are too high and have to find a way to cut $3.6 million from the NHL roster. Mike Harrington at the Buffalo News suggests the most likely way would be to stash Ales Kotalik and Shaone Morrisonn in the AHL. They still have some time, though, not needing to get below the cap until opening night.

SHARK BITE: Silicon Valley Sports & Entertainment reduced its workforce by 19 members yesterday (via Mercury News). That would be the Sharks' corporate parent. But of those 19 positions, none came from the hockey division of the company. One of the unfortunate 19, however, was Ken Arnold, senior director of communications. Mike Lee over at letsgosharks.com is sad to see Arnold depart as he says Arnold was instrumental in not only the Sharks' communication outreach, but the NHL's embrace of the Internet.

ROCK ON: In the depths of the offseason abyss, hockey fans must find a way to entertain themselves some way. So yesterday in the Twitterverse a bit of a contest took off under the #nhlbands hashtag where people were challenged with taking hockey names and morphing them into band names. The Toronto Sun put together a list of the best names. No. 1? Halak Sabbath. A close second goes to Crosby, Staals & Nash. I threw out a late submission of Ehrhoff Supply. Didn't make it.

TOO LATE IN THE GAME: Fellow Eye on Hockey blogger Adam Gretz has been doing a great job of keeping you up to date on the features in the next edition of EA Sports' NHL series, including all the legends in the game. One other feature -- or lack of -- worth mentioning is it looks the game will be shipped before we ever see a jersey for the Winnipeg Jets, so it will be available as an online update to the game. In the meantime, I would assume they just use the retro look at the default?

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: August 18, 2011 12:34 pm
Edited on: August 18, 2011 1:45 pm
 

Islanders party will feature different game

IslandersGame

By: Adam Gretz

The New York Islanders were in the news last week because of a viewing party that was going to take place during a rebroadcast of their brawl-filled game with the Pittsburgh Penguins -- a game the Islanders dominated 9-3 -- back in February. The game also included several fights and a number of ejections, and resulted in three suspensions (two for the Islanders, one for the Penguins) and a $100,000 fine for the Islanders organization.

Islanders fans, for the most part, seemed to love the idea, while Penguins fans and others around the league weren't quite behind it. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told Kevin Allen of USA Today that the league "did not approve of the use," while they were also looking into the promotion of it.

It seems as if the league ended up convincing the Islanders and the MSG Network to feature a different game.

On Thursday, the Islanders sent out a new invite to their fans for the viewing party, which is scheduled to take place on Friday, announcing that instead of watching the Feb. 11 brawl, they will instead be watching a rebroadcast of their 7-6 overtime win against the Buffalo Sabres on Feb. 13. That game featured a hat trick from Michael Grabner, including the overtime winner.

Here's the updated invite from the Islanders:
Join us for a replay of the high-scoring OT win from February 13th vs the Buffalo Sabres.

Michael Grabner stealing the spotlight netting two goals in regulation and then adding a third (his first #GrabTrick for the Isles) in OT is worth celebrating again.

On Friday August 19th, MSG Plus will re-air the game and we want the fans to join us for a viewing party at Champions.

Same awesome deal as usual, raffles, prizes and more.

All raffles benefit the Islanders Children's Foundation.

RSVP now and remember to get there early and get a table with your friends.

Stay tuned to #Isles and #IslesMeetup for all the latest and for more information.
Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com