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.
The tough times just got tougher for Sam Bennett.
Bennett, the fourth overall pick in 2014, will be a healthy scratch tonight when the Flames host the Preds at the Saddledome, head coach Glen Gulutzan announced.
The 20-year-old is in the midst of an awful slump. Bennett hasn’t scored a goal since Dec. 27 and is pointless in his last 10 games — not the kind of production the team was anticipating, especially after he scored 18 goals and 36 points in his rookie campaign last season.
“It’s frustrating when you’re not producing,” Bennett said earlier this week, per the Calgary Sun. “I want to contribute offensively. But just playing the right way is my main focus. Hopefully, I keep getting chances and eventually one has gotta go in.”
Micheal Ferland will move into the lineup to replace Bennett, and veteran Matt Stajan will be bumped up to the third-line center spot as a result.
Given his pedigree and draft position, expectations for Bennett are pretty high. Calgary anticipated he’d be part of the young, talented forward group that carries the load offensively, alongside the likes of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Matthew Tkachuk.
And to be fair, Bennett did have a decent start to the year, with 12 points through his first 24 games.
But it’s been tough sledding ever since.
Darryl Sutter wants more from his “top guys.”
In the wake of last night’s 3-2 loss to the Sharks, the Kings’ head coach was no doubt referring to the likes of Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik, each of whom has just four goals this season.
Though Gaborik did manage to score last night, Kopitar didn’t. The captain has just one goal in his last 16 games. And for $10 million a season, it’s not enough to be good defensively.
“You need those top guys to make a difference,” said Sutter, per LA Kings Insider. “You’re going to be in one-goal games, lots of ‘em. How many have we had this year? I mean, how many times? I bet I’ve already pulled the goalie more times ever than I have ever, so that means you’re one goal down. It means that you need your top guys to make a difference there.”
Jeff Carter (23 goals) and Tanner Pearson (14) are the only Kings with double-digit goal totals this season. And with no Tyler Toffoli, it’s even more important that Kopitar and Gaborik start chipping in more regularly.
Gaborik’s produced lately, with three goals in his last six games. That needs to continue, and Kopitar needs to find his scoring touch.
The Kings (22-19-4) kick off a five-game road trip Saturday in Brooklyn. After 45 games, they’re barely hanging on to a wild-card spot, with Vancouver, Nashville, Dallas, and Winnipeg all within striking distance.
It’s worth noting that only four teams have fewer regulation victories than the Kings have (12). If not for their 9-1 record in overtime, they might really be in trouble.
Seth Griffith is on waivers again.
The 24-year-old forward has only managed five assists in 21 games for the Florida Panthers since being claimed off waivers from the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Leafs had claimed Griffith off waivers from Boston at the beginning of the season.
A prolific scorer at the AHL level (he had 77 points in 57 games for Providence last season), Griffith has just six goals and 10 assists in 58 career NHL games.
Griffith has been a healthy scratch the past three games for the Panthers.
Aleksander Barkov was only supposed to miss 2-3 weeks with a then-undisclosed injury.
That timeline was provided almost three weeks ago, and Barkov still isn’t back playing for the Florida Panthers.
Today, interim coach Tom Rowe provided an update, and it wasn’t good news. Rowe told reporters on a conference call that there’s no timeline for Barkov’s return. He then dropped an even bigger bomb, admitting there’s concern that both Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau could have season-ending injuries.
The Panthers are still hopeful that Huberdeau will be back by early March. The 23-year-old hasn’t played at all this season after suffering a skate laceration in the preseason. His original timeline was 3-4 months.
The Panthers’ frustrating season continued last night in Edmonton, where they lost 4-3 in overtime on a Connor McDavid goal with 2.6 seconds remaining. Though they’re only one point back of a playoff spot, the closest two teams they’re chasing, Toronto and Ottawa, each have five games in hand.
It’s estimated that Florida (20-18-9) will need to go in the neighborhood of 20-10-5 down the stretch in order to make the playoffs. And that will obviously be a lot tougher to accomplish without two of the team’s best forwards — if, indeed, Barkov and Huberdeau are sidelined for much, or even all, of the remaining schedule.