Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Are The Buffalo Sabres Brad Richards Perfect Fit?

The consensus among most out there is that the main competitors for free agent Brad Richards are the New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs with the Tampa Bay Lightning there as a team Richards would love to play for if they can figure it out.  Yesterday, Blue Seat Blogs examined what other teams could be involved in the running for the free agent center, but I would add one more to the list; the Buffalo Sabres. 

Since the day that Terry Pegula was announced as the owner of the Sabres I have been waiting for him to use his fortune to make a flashy move that sends ripples through the NHL.  He has made moves like trading for Brad Boyes and taking on the contracts of Ales Kotalik to acquire Robyn Reghr late last week, but nothing that screams going for a title.  Signing Brad Richards would certainly be that sort of move. 

Mentally I discounted the move after the Sabres took money owed to Reghr and Kotalik last week, but after talking about it with James Wrabel I looked closer at the numbers and Buffalo has the ability to make it work.  The lack of need to fill the rest of the roster with large salaries, the inexpensiveness of their restricted free agents and potential prospects to fill certain spots makes the money they have to add smaller than it might seem.  Add to that the fact they have salaries like Ales Kotalik that they can bury in the minors if the need arises and the cap is not an issue for the Sabres. 

Joe Yerdon of Pro Hockey Talk broke down potential suitors for Richards earlier this month and included Buffalo with the following explanation..
Buffalo Sabres: With Terry Pegula owning the team and a guy like Tim Connolly coming off the books the Sabres are in desperate need of a playmaking center to help Derek Roy out. If Pegula wants to make a splash, finding a way to convince Richards to come to town would be a huge coup. Having Richards line up with guys like Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville would make the Sabres a serious offensive threat.
As Yerdon is alluding to, the Sabres have the opportunity to give Richards just about everything he has said he wants in his next team.  Pegula is the stable owner that he wants.  Buffalo is a smaller market with less scrutiny than he would be getting in Toronto or New York. With a forward group consisting of names like Richards, Vanek, Roy, Staffod, Pominville, Boyes, Ennis, Gerbe there is plenty of offense.  Reghr, Myers, Leopold, Gragnani is not the greatest defense corps ever, but it is solid and Ryan Miller gives them a goalie capable of winning a Stanley Cup.

The fact that Buffalo can offer Richards stability and a chance to win without the scrutiny he would get in New York or Toronto seems to make them the ideal option for the 31-year-old center to sign on with, if they want him.  So while everyone is focused on New York or Toronto as the only places for Brad Richards, I am going to keep one eye to another team in the state of New York.