BUFFALO (LGS) — Buffalo Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier has had his critics. I count myself among that group of people who have criticized his past decisions that have left the us without some of the most important players this franchise has had. Daniel Briere, Chris Drury and Brian Campbell are recent examples. But what Regier did this offseason is redeem himself.
Regier entered this offseason without too many immediate worries to address. Paul Gaustad and Daniel Paille were both restricted free agents, but they were fairly easy to sign. Clarke MacArthur and Mark Mancari both signed qualifying offers and then Regier had to focus on deciding which veteran defenseman to keep: Teppo Numminen or Nolan Pratt? In the end, Regier went with Numminen.
Regier even added a player when he acquired D Craig Rivet in a trade with San Jose. He shipped Steve Bernier, who was acquired in the trade that sent Campbell to San Jose last spring, to Vancouver.
But the worry for Regier was next offseason prior to the 2009-10 season. The team's top netminder, Ryan Miller, was set to become an unrestricted free agent. Jason Pominville – the team's second leading scorer last season – would become the most sought after restricted free agent next summer. Other unrestricted free agents after this season include:
- D Jaroslav Spacek, who scored nine goals with the Sabres last year.
- C Tim Connolly, who has been struggling with injuries over the last two seasons but has been effective in the lineup.
- RW Maxim Afinogenov. The struggling winger who many thought would be traded this offseason.
- RW Ales Kotalik. Another possible trade this offseason that never panned out.
But Miller and Pominville were the top priorities. They both, should they have reached the free agent market, would have commanded big deals. Unlike the Sabres' front office of the past though, Regier said that it would be a priority to sign Miller and Pominville now instead of later. Miller signed his long-term deal in mid-July, which will keep him in Buffalo through the 2013-14 season. Pominville signed his five year extension yesterday.
What Regier has done is fixed his reputation and the reputation of the Sabres. While the team used to dismiss such charges, the talk around the league was that Buffalo wasn't the place to go if you wanted a long-term deal. You could come here, play your heart out, but when it came to contract talks, you were probably better served looking up the real estate listings in a new town.
That was the reputation. That reputation was solidified when players like Briere and Drury hit the open market and got bigger deals from big-market teams. It also was solidified last season when Brian Campbell was shipped out of town because a deal could not be reached.
With the signings of Miller and Pominville, as well as the signings of Jochen Hecht, Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek, the Sabres have a core to work with and to build off of for the next few years. If you go just by the length of contracts, Miller, Pominville, Roy and Vanek will be together for at least five years. Combine that with draft picks like Nathan Gerbe and other up and coming stars in the Sabres organization and this could be a great team to watch over the next five years.
And who do we have to thank? Darcy Regier and the Sabres front office.