The Buffalo Sabres face a lot of free agent questions going into the 2011 off-season, but they opted to answer one of their biggest ones today. The team signed pending restricted free agent Drew Stafford to a four-year, $16 million contract extension according to Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News.
That works out to an annual salary cap hit of $4 million, which is the same exact mark as fellow Sabres forwards Derek Roy and Brad Boyes. Stafford enjoyed an abbreviated breakout season in 2010-11, scoring 31 goals (and 52 points) in just 62 games played. He scored one goal and two assists for three points in the team’s seven-game series against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Obviously, there are natural questions regarding whether or not this was an all-too-convenient “contract year” performance by Stafford. His 17.3 shooting percentage in 10-11 will be tough to duplicate, but he might be able to reach the 30-goal plateau again anyway if he can play in closer to 82 games per season going forward.
Contract year aberration worries aside, there are reasons the Sabres should feel pleased. It’s not a mammoth deal, especially if he can be a 30-goal guy with regularity. He reached the 20-goal mark in 08-09, is only 25-years-old and has the pedigree of a first round pick (13th overall in 2004), so it’s a reasonable gamble.
Using the common estimate of a $60.5-$63.5 million salary cap ceiling for the 2011-13 season, the Sabres will have about $15.6-$18.6 million with 7-10 roster spots to fill. We’ll take a deeper look at the Sabres’ salary cap situation on Saturday.