Buffalo Sabres fans have already seen what owner Terry Pegula is willing to do when it comes to spending money. Pegula and former general manager Darcy Regier gave insane amounts of money to Ville Leino in an attempt to look smarter than every other general manager in the NHL. It turns out that Regeir was not smarter than every other general manager and now Regeir resides in the “Where are they now?” file of hockey history.
When Brad Richards was out on the free agent market, the Sabres made a play for him. They threw money at Richards and promised him the world. But Richards had the same attitude about Buffalo that every other big name free agent has had for years – no thanks. So the Sabres threw millions at Leino and tried to pass him off as a big free agent prize, but no one was buying it. Even the casual hockey fans in Buffalo knew that Leino’s contract was a bad idea.
Ever since November 2013, things have started to change in Buffalo. Pat LaFontaine took over as the president of hockey operations and he immediately fired Darcy Regier. Then LaFontaine fired former head coach Ron Rolston and brought in fan favorite Ted Nolan. When LaFontaine introduced new general manager Tim Murray, he also introduced Craig Patrick as the special adviser to hockey operations. Yes, that Craig Patrick.
Pat LaFontaine was one of those top players that teams coveted back in his playing career. He knows what top players look for in an organization, and he also knows that he needed to change the aura that surrounded the team before any big free agents would even consider coming to Buffalo. Has he succeeded? It sounds like we will get a chance to find out as the Sabres are constantly popping up in discussions surrounding the biggest free agent prizes for 2014.
One of the more recent players to have his name indirectly attached to the Sabres is New York Rangers captain Ryan Callahan. Everyone in Buffalo knows that Callahan is from the Western New York area, and the fans think it would be nice to have a hometown hero who is actually from the hometown. Callahan wants a seven-year contract worth around $42 million. The Rangers are balking at the deal, and there are murmurs that the Rangers are allowing Callahan’s agent to negotiate contract extensions with other teams. The Sabres are said to be one of those teams that has indicated it will give Callahan exactly what he wants.
The Sabres are also popping up in casual discussions about players such as Marian Gaborik, Paul Stastny and Joni Pitkanen. All of these players would be young enough to be worth the investment, and they could all make significant contributions to the Sabres’ future.
The Sabres currently have around $18 million in cap space for next season, but that could change if players such as Ryan Miller and Matt Moulson are not with the team in October. Terry Pegula has always said that he will invest in a winner, and he has proven that he is willing to sign the big checks. Now we get to see if the changes Pat LaFontaine has made can work together with Pegula’s checkbook to bring a winning team to Buffalo.