I know, I know...I should just be enjoying the ride this season, but the fact of the matter is, the Buffalo Sabres could have a dynasty on their hands. While yes, this is incredibly premature, I cannot help but look ahead to what could happen with this team this summer...hopefully after the biggest celebration Buffalo, NY has ever seen.
So let's take a look at this coming offseason's free agents and what I think we should do with them (I am just as much of an expert as ESPN.com's Scott Burnside):
Unrestricted Free Agents:
Daniel Briere - All the talk says that it is a given that the Sabres are going to have to choose between Daniel Briere and Chris Drury. While Briere has shown some flashes of greatness in the playoffs, such as his diving assist in Game 6 of the Rangers Series, I have been disappointed with his performance at times. For one thing, for being a captain, he takes dumb penalties at incredibly inopportune times. There is no reason to hook a guy in the offensive zone when your team is up by 2 goals in the playoffs. Yes, I realize Briere has 11 points in 11 games these playoffs but he still hasn't shown me the greatness that warrants the 7 million dollars a year he'll be asking for. He just doesn't strike me as a leader, on or off the ice. I hope he enjoys Montreal next season, playing for a team that has become the definition of mediocrity. The Call: Let him drive off in his new Northtown automobile up north to Montreal.
Chris Drury - Pay this man whatever he is asking. There may be no greater clutch performer in the history of sports than Chris Drury. He's showing it again in these playoffs. Captain Clutch may have what will go down as the most important goal in Buffalo Sabres history when he sent the Rangers reeling by tying Game 5 with under 8 seconds to go. When the Sabres were trying to scramble to reclaim their organization through bankruptcy and a potential move out of Buffalo altogether, Drury was the man the Sabres decided to build their new era around. And it's obviously paid off. Two Eastern Conference finals appearances in a row including our first President's Trophy. When the game is on the line Drury is Jordanesque. He is our Joe Sakic...we keep this man til the end. The Call: Keep Drury in Buffalo...forever.
Teppo Numminen - After a subpar regular season, where at times he really showed his age, Teppo is +9 in the playoffs. Yet, the man is almost 40 years old. Let's get this man a Stanley Cup so he can retire as a champion. If he wants to stick around...we should let him play elsewhere. The Call: Hopefully this year's Ray Borque. Retiring on top.
Dainius Zubrus - KEEP THIS MAN. In the playoffs there have been several times where it has taken 3 guys to get the puck away from him behind the opponent's goal. He is a beast. I love him. If I had a choice between Zubrus and Briere, I'd pick Zubrus, and I don't care if that makes me insane. Lindy Ruff loves him too so I'm hoping he stays. The Call: I love Zuuubs. He stays. (We got this guy for Jiri Novotny...WHAT?!)
Adam Mair - A guy with grit who can put the puck in the net...his name is Paul Gaustad. We already have a super Adam Mair, so we don't need this one. Mair had a stellar game in the Islanders series and you need guys like him on your team, but we don't need Adam Mair specifically. The Call: Mair's Office moves to a different city.
Ty Conklin - While we've seen very little of this guy, I like what I've seen. He appears to be a decent backup. Let's keep him. He won't cost much. The Call: Conklin continues to get his game back in Buffalo and serves as a valuable backup for a long time.
Restricted Free Agents
Thomas Vanek - Is this even a question? Long term deal. Let's lock him up for the rest of his career. Although let's be wary on Yashin-like money here...it's only been one good season. The Call: Hopefully Lazy Thomas does not return. Let's take that risk.
Daniel Paille - Showed a lot of heart in his chances this season. Ruff even gave him a shot in the playoffs, though he wasn't quite ready. Hopefully a future star for the Sabres. The Call: Part of a bright future. Keep him.
Derek Roy - This one's a bit of a tough call in my mind. He had a good season and he has been great in the playoffs in previous years, but this year he's disappeared a bit. He's taken a couple of dumb penalties. Don't get me wrong I'm sure he'll pick it up and he's a good player, but you can't keep everyone. The Call: Like the Hammer pants you just didn't want to put away...you still have to let him go.
Nathan Paetsch - 24 points in 63 games and a +10 for the season. Not too shabby for a rookie. I wouldn't even mind seeing him get some playoff action if someone struggles here at the end. Plus his versatility as a defenseman/forward is ridiculously valuable. The Call: Long-term deal.
Andrew Peters - He's no Rob Ray, but he's good at his job. The Call: Keep him.