Coming off last week’s NHL Entry Draft, where the Buffalo Sabres drafted Mikhail Grigorenko and Zemgus Girgensons in the first round, excitement is abound throughout Buffalo.
That excitement level will continue to trend upward as this Sunday at Noon is the opening of unrestricted free agency.
When getting ready for unrestricted free agency, people often tend to look at their team’s roster and ponder what moves could be made that would bring their team to the next level.
Looking at the Buffalo Sabres roster, the same thing can be said.
What moves can General Manager Darcy Regier make, when free agency starts, that will benefit the roster?
More than a few Sabres fans have pondered the possibility of Zach Parise in blue and gold next season.
Before we travel down that road, let’s reminisce and go over what absolutely cannot happen this offseason.
As you all should remember from last July 1st, the Sabres were hot on the trail of center Brad Richards. Owner Terry Pegula wanted Richards in the blue and gold so bad that Pegula took his private jet up to Canada to meet with Richards. It was evident that Richards was looking to sign with a different team, so Pegula left and the Sabres moved onto other targets.
This is where last year’s “blockbuster” deal comes in with free agent winger/center Ville Leino, who signed on the dotted line for a six year, 27 million dollar commitment to Buffalo.
There was much excitement at the time of Leino’s deal, but after 8 goals and 25 points in his first season, there is not much excitement to be had.
Many people understand that Terry Pegula wants to win the Stanley Cup but he needs to be very careful when he has Darcy Regier chase free agents. As the Sabres were burned in year one of the Leino deal, that can easily happen again.
Looking back at the most recent Sabres season, it was apparent that consistent goal scoring had become an issue.
Last season, the Sabres scored 218 goals. 73 of those goals came from the Sabres “first line” of Pominville, Vanek and Roy. To put that into perspective, three players scored almost a quarter of the teams goals.
With the trade deadline addition of Cody Hodgson and the emergence of Marcus Foligno, the scoring could very well shape up to be very balanced but at the time of this article, it’s unable to determine.
Is it simple enough to say that Zach Parise could help solve Buffalo’s scoring woes?
Off the ice, it makes sense. Drew Stafford and Zach Parise are best friends. They played together at the University of North Dakota, Stafford will be a groomsman for Parise this summer in his wedding and they both train in the offseason together. This friendship could mean a lot to the Sabres if it helps reel in the big fish.
On the ice, it has the potential to become a head scratcher. The Sabres often struggle to score without having consistent talent at the center position. The Sabres also have many wingers so adding another winger to the mix could be counterproductive.
With that point being made, Parise has shown on more than one occassion that he knows how score goals. He has averaged about 28 goals per season in his seven seasons. Another impressive thing about Parise is that he rarely misses games. Throughout his seven year career, Parise has played at least 81 of 82 games six times. The only season Parise missed more than one game was during the 2010-11 season, when he played in 13 games after tearing his right meniscus.
Just a side thought here, but how many Sabres fans would be heartbroken to see Marcus Foligno overtake Matt Ellis’ or Cody McCormick’s fourth-line spot if it meant creating a left wing slot for Parise to fill?
One way or another, the Zach Parise Sweepstakes will begin at 12 PM this Sunday, and we will find out if Terry Pegula is ready to make his first signature move as the Owner of the Buffalo Sabres.