There is only so far that this team, as it stands right now, will go, but they are at least putting the rest of the league on notice that they are going to push back this season.
The real gamble with the Sabres will be with their youth, which they do have lots of, including the number two pick overall in this past Summer's draft, Sam Reinhart. How are these kids going to fare against those veteran clubs when it comes to scoring, let alone winning? Here's how I'm projecting the club to go this season.
|Forwards||14/15 Proj||Cap Hit||Defense||14/15 Proj||Cap Hit||Goaltenders||14/15 Proj||Cap Hit|
|Matt Moulson||55||5.000||Tyler Myers||35||5.500||Michal Neuvirth||35||2.500|
|Tyler Ennis||50||4.600||Andrej Meszaros||25||4.125||Jhonas Enroth||25||1.250|
|Cody Hodgson||50||4.250||Josh Gorges||15||3.900|
|Brian Gionta||35||4.250||Andre Benoit||15||0.800|
|Drew Stafford||35||4.000||Rasmus Ristolainen||10||0.925|
|Chris Stewart||30||4.150||Mike Weber||10||1.667|
|BUYOUTS & OTHER||-0.917|
|Sam Reinhart||40||0.925||Mark Pysyk||10||0.870||Matthew Hackett||5||0.751|
|Mikhail Grigorenko||35||0.925||Tyson Strachan||5||0.650|
|Patrick Kaleta||5||1.250||Chad Ruhwedel||5||0.650|
|Zac Dalpe||5||0.700||Nicolas Deslauriers||5||0.638|
First Round Picks
There is nothing about this Sabres team that says it's ready to explode onto the scene and take everyone by storm. Some mid-range players are going to get extra playing time, but no one is really going to see some 1st round-like numbers in Buffalo. Mid-range talent playing with mid-range talent won't add up well for our purposes.
For those interested, the first Sabre taken in last year's draft was taken in the 3rd round and he is no longer on the team. It may be a long wait for any Sabres this year.
Most Intriguing or Breakout Player
As much as I haven't projected him to have much of a breakout season, centre Cody Hodgson has the most potential to, given that he is a lock for the roster, where a couple of their prospects still have to do all the preseason leg work to get in there. Hodgson returns as the number one centre on the team and he will have a new winger on his line in Matt Moulson, but this is a team that is still lacking in identity and even though the projected roster was filled out a lot faster than previous years with an influx of new money, that didn't translate into better projections from me. I think Hodgson still has the potential, but it may be another year before he busts out.
Other Pool Worthy Forwards
In a 14-round draft, like I'll be hosting, you may not see a Sabres forward taken until the halfway mark, where Matt Moulson may finally crack the draft list, as I have him tops of the team going into the season. Tyler Ennis, Brian Gionta and Drew Stafford should round out the veteran players, while the 2nd overall pick in the Entry Draft, Sam Reinhart, may crack the draftable forwards this year, but I wouldn't put too much stock in him, because he won't have the same kind of help that Nathan MacKinnon did in Colorado last season.
Other Pool Worthy Defense
Offense will not necessarily be the name of the game for the blueliners in Buffalo this season, but you should be able to find a couple of reasonable sources of points, if you're really digging. Tyler Myers and Andrej Meszaros should still be good for points, but since the offense up front is going to struggle, I wouldn't count on these two to do it by themselves. There are a couple of outside gambles, if you deem them worthy, as Andre Benoit came from a powerhouse Avalanche team or even youngster Rasmus Ristolainen is still gaining some praise as a potential point-getter.
The dream for the Jhonas Enroth in his time in Buffalo was to be a number one guy for the Sabres, but even with Ryan Miller gone from the picture, I don't think it's necessarily a lock. Rather, I think there will be a decent split of time in the crease there and I think newcomer, Michal Neuvirth, will outplay Enroth in the end, earning a few more points. Whoever takes the most points is definitely up for debate, but given the state of the team, they won't be able to run a straight number one all year long.
Team To Pick From Late?
If you have decided to take any Sabres at all in this volatile time for the organization, you better be getting them late anyways. I wouldn't be expecting any bargains from Buffalo, unless Reinhart was to blow off the doors and surprise the hell out of everyone in the Atlantic Division.
Unsigned Players and Salary Cap
An influx of new money hasn't changed the dynamic of being a possible budget team in the 2015 season. The Sabres did get some big contracts off their books, which is the biggest reason why they are closer to the floor than the ceiling, but there wasn't a great deal of talent on the market to poach, nor did they have the reputation to land what was out there. The Sabres are going into September with 21 players on their projected roster and $15.5 million left in cap space.
Nothing to report from the Sabres camp. They should be going into the season with a full compliment of healthy bodies.