NHL Rumors: Are the Buffalo Sabres Looking at Restricted Free Agents?

Typically, restricted free agents are off limits.

In the past few years the hockey world has only seen a handful of offer sheets tendered to RFAs, with the Buffalo Sabres’ Thomas Vanek and this offseason’s saga with the Nashville Predator’s Shea Weber being the most prevalent examples.

But with the new collective bargaining agreement looming, many general managers may see this as their last chance to tender an RFA with an offer sheet, especially with the terms and money that Weber saw from the Philadelphia Flyers.

So is Sabres general manager Darcy Regier potentially looking at any RFAs?

There are four major restricted free agents left on the market right now: the Montreal Canadiens‘ P.K. Subban, the Winnipeg Jets’ Evander Kane, the Sabres’ Tyler Ennis and the Colorado Avalanche‘s Ryan O’Reilly.

O’Reilly is a truly interesting case. After a career year, he saw fellow teammate and RFA center Matt Duchene get signed to what could only be considered a hometown discount at two years, $7 million.

A truly rising star in the league, O’Reilly would give the Sabres three young, talented centers, cementing the pivot position for years to come. O’Reilly will never be one to score 100 points a year, but he has the potential to be the league’s next Chris Drury-type: As strong offensively as he is defensively.

What is truly interesting, however, is that both Ennis and O’Reilly remain unsigned. Kane is a power forward who plays left wing and Subban is one of the league’s most talented young defenseman, so they don’t play much of a role in the O’Reilly contract negotiations.

Ennis is a different story. Ennis moved to center after coming back from his second ankle injury last season and lit it up for the Sabres, scoring 29 points in his last 30 games. Ennis is an excellent comparable to O’Reilly for contract terms.

Regier said in a press conference earlier this week that the negotiations with Ennis were progressing well and all indications were that he would be signed soon.

But does O’Reilly not being signed have something to do with Darcy? Probably not.

But it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility that Regier is talking to the Avs’ general manager Greg Sherman about acquiring O’Reilly, especially seeing they are loaded up the middle with Duchene, Paul Stastny, and blue chip prospect Joey Hishon in the system.

The possibility is low, but don’t be surprised if Regier pulls a preemptive trade or signs O’Reilly to a lucrative offer sheet.


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  • http://www.thesportsbuff.com TheSportsBuff

    The problem with your logic is that Buffalo is just as deep down the middle with Hodgson, Ennis, Grigorenko already projected to develop into “Top 6″ centers, and Girgensons likely a third or fourth line guy. And that doesn’t even include Luke Adam, who has fallen out of favor but could still creep back into the picture if he has a good year in Rochester.

    O’Reilly is a good young player, but BESIDES the fact that any reasonable offer sheet would be matched by Colorado, just the idea of it makes little sense for Buffalo as any deal w/ O’Reilly would force one of Ennis/Hodgson/Grigorenko out of the fold for at least a couple of seasons. That almost certainly is not in Darcy’s plan, especially if O’Reilly maxes out at a Chris Drury level — that is, a third line defensive center.

    • Matt Clouden

      I guess the flaw in your logic is that you assume bodies equals depth, which is not the case. Ennis is the only one of the three that has shown anything in the system. Yes, Hodgson took an unfair amount of criticism for not lighting it up last season and I think he’ll be great this year, but it’s not a slam dunk. Grigorenko is a surreal talent, but he’s got to prove it at the NHL-level.

      Darcy cannot sit back and cross his fingers and hope Ennis, Hodgson and Grigorenko pan out. He has to give them help, and unfortunately none of them have any semblance of a two-way game right now. Look at every successful team in the NHL and you’ll notice something with their centers: they have the stereotypical playmaker and the two-way shutdown kind of guy that can also score. Boston has Bergeron, Vancouver has Kesler, LA has Brown and Richards, Pittsburgh had Staal, Detroit has Datsyuk. The Sabres don’t have that. And to say that Chris Drury was a third line defensive center max is incredibly ignorant. Drury scored 40 goals. Tell me how many third line centers do that. O’Reilly may not score 40 goals, but he scored 50+ points this season playing with tweedledee and tweedledum. Imagine what he could do with Pommers or Vanek on his wing?