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29 May 2007

Losing Drury and Briere Becoming More Likely Everyday

It hasn't been the glorious May that Buffalo Sabres fans envisioned in their wildest dreams this season. Coming off a stunning rout at the hands of the Ottawa Senators the Sabres are bracing themselves for some losses that could be felt for even longer. It is well documented that both co-captains, Chris Drury and Daniel Briere, are unrestricted free agents. It is also common knowledge that the Sabres broke from their own team policy and negotiated with Drury within the season while not talking with Briere. Rumours abound of a split between the captains late in the season and during the playoffs. Now a combination of team policy, fiscal restraints and hard economics might conspire to strip Buffalo of its core leadership.

Last week Sabres Managing Partner Larry Quinn spoke on WGR550 about the fallout from the season and the upcoming off season. Most of the talk centered around the co-captains and the salary cap. Quinn pointed out that the cap is expected to rise to somewhere near $48-$49 million dollars. He further spoke of the Sabres intent to spend around 44 million on the cap. To go further, he said, would mean the Sabres would have to make the second round of the playoffs to maintain a positive cash flow. To be sure, Quinn said all of the right things about wanting the captains back and doing everything possible to keep the team core together.

Unfortunately, the writing between the lines speaks volumes. With the cap going up to 48 million the maximum individual player salary rises to approximately$9.5 million. Andrei Markov, a very good, but hardly a superstar defenseman just received an average of just under $6 million from the Montreal Canadiens. Teams have loads of money to spend and Drury and Briere both lend special talents sure to command top dollar.

Initially the thought was that $6.5 -$7 million each might be enough to keep the two captains around. Now the talk is starting to hover around the $8 million a year mark, a price the Sabres cannot afford for both players and, more than likely, will be unwilling to pay one. The rising costs also signal a reason as to why Ryan Smyth turned down a recent Islanders proposal for nearly $6 million a year, far more than he had ever been offered. Free agents are expecting a field day and it will be an expensive one.

Last year the Sabres went to the wall financially to keep the core of this team together. Unfortunately, the wall just became the Great Wall of China. There is always hope, but it is shaping up to be a long, cold summer in Buffalo.

2 fanatics have replied:

Bleu, Blanc et Rouge said...

$8 million!!!

Man, that's a lot of money, who can afford them without sacrificing their entire remaining cap space and $8 million on one player, or even worse, $16 million for two?

The Ghost said...

I am starting to believe that Mike Peca has a better shot at returning than eith of them. Though Eklund says.....

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