The Sabres Observer
by @DaveDavisHockey on 10/11/16 at 07:52 AM ET
Things are getting a bit dicey on the Buffalo blue line, as the lack of a new contract for RFA and number one defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen means we could see Zach Bogosian getting the most minutes in Thursday's opener against Montreal.
For a team usually more than willing to open up the wallet to pay its best players, why the hard stance against Ristolainen?
Three points to be made here. First, the Sabres have about $8.5M in free cap space and will obviously be much tighter to the ceiling after signing their star defenseman. Tim Murray wants to leave himself the option of being a buyer at the trade deadline, and overpaying in this situation certainly won't help.
Second, what looks like a very bright future for the Sabres also means the necessity to take a sobering look at the payroll over the next few seasons. The first megabucks deals for Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart are due to kick in at the same time two years from now. To speculate that both of them combined could cost Buffalo over $15M per season isn't the least bit crazy.
Murray and Terry Pegula have to show some discipline here. It would be pretty awful if a Sabres team making a memorable playoff run in 2017-18 had to be broken up because of financial mismanagement. And besides that, they have the leverage anyway. It would be foolish not to use it.
The last point is just a guess, but I'm wondering if Murray has Ristolainen devalued a little bit because of his analytics numbers. There's been some concern coming from the advanced stats community about Buffalo's weaker Corsi percentage when he's on the ice, to the point where it's evolved into a philosophical debate over the value of the Quality of Teammates metric (lots of minutes with a declining Josh Gorges as his partner). Murray at the very least is an analytics follower, and whether or not he's using this information in negotiations, there's no question that he's very aware of the data.
The bottom line here is the Sabres hold the cards and Ristolainen isn't going anywhere. While Elliotte Friedman's note that Buffalo made a call to Winnipeg about Jacob Trouba is interesting, I just don't see it happening. If they won't pay Ristolainen $6.5-$7M per season, they aren't paying Trouba that much.
I still believe a deal gets done, and soon.
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About The Sabres Observer
Dave Davis has covered the Buffalo Sabres for various NHL accredited websites and newspapers since 2003. He was the senior writer and Sabres correspondent for The Fourth Period, covered hockey for Western New York Sports and Leisure Magazine, and has had articles featured on NHL.com, FOX Sports, Yahoo Sports and in New York Sportscene. Sabres news and notes can be found on his Twitter page.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: [@DaveDavisHockey]