While your mind might be on summer vacation plans this week, here's a not so subtle reminder that this is a big week in the Sabres and Bills off seasons. The Sabres get their first crack at making changes to a roster that missed the playoffs last season and the Bills get in their final workout before next month's training camp.
The Sabres and the rest of the NHL will head to Pittsburgh this week for the annual Entry Draft, which will be held Friday and Saturday. There has been plenty of speculation regarding potential trades and some pretty big names have been bandied about like Rick Nash, Roberto Luongo, Jordan Staal and Tim Thomas just to name a few. This year's free agent crop is not considered deep so teams might attempt to make their significant acquisitions via the trade market. Perhaps there will be some movement with the draft as teams try to trade up or down.
As far as the Sabres are concerned, they are in a very good position to improve their roster and are expected to look for scoring help and/or size down the middle. They have assets to offer ranging from players on their current roster, prospects in the organization or draft picks, of which the Sabres have two in the first round(12 and 21) and four in the top forty four.
According to WGR's Paul Hamilton, the Sabres have tried to trade Derek Roy for the last two seasons but this weekend might finally be the moment they get a deal done. Roy struggled last season but prior to that had been a productive player and with only one year left on his contract at a very reasonable four million dollar cap hit, Roy is attractive from a financial standpoint.
The Sabres are very deep on defense and have young assets like Andrej Sekera, who has certainly shown ability but lacked consistency, and Braydon McNabb. His play last season appeared to show he could be counted on as a top four defenseman for many years to come but it also increased his value on the market should the Sabres opt to move him.
If a team is looking for more of a veteran blue liner with playoff experience, Buffalo could offer Jordan Leopold who will be entering the final year of a deal with a three million dollar cap number. The Sabres could also look deeper into the system and make one of their top prospects, Mark Pysyk, available for the right price. Pysyk is coming off a very strong season with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League as he captained them into the Memorial Cup.
Maybe the Sabres will surprise many and try to move one of their big name, big ticket items like Thomas Vanek or Ryan Miller. Its doubtful either one will be shipped out, but if it came to it, my guess is Vanek would go before Miller since a trade of Miller would open a major hole in goaltending.
As I mentioned, the free agency crop isn't particularly deep and I don't think the Sabres will get into a bidding war for the top forward, Zach Parise. That means significant moves will come via a trade or trades for rostered players or a major move up in the draft so Buffalo can select a player who can impact the club as a rookie. The track record of Darcy Regier shows he is much more comfortable making changes to the roster this time of year than at any point in season, including the trade deadline. Regier has cap room, various assets and financial resources to do whatever he deems to be in the best interests of a franchise that is supposed to be on the fast track to a Stanley Cup.
WGR will have extensive coverage of the draft before, during and after the event on all of our shows including the new Sabres Hockey Hotline which will be hosted by Kevin Sylvester and will debut on Monday. WGR's Paul Hamilton will be in Pittsburgh covering the draft as well.
As for the Bills, the voluntary OTA's are finished and all that remains before training camp is this week's mandatory three day minicamp. The workouts are still non contact so don't expect big things coming out of Orchard Park but its the last chance for the coaches to work on installation and even do some evaluating before everyone gets a few weeks off in preparation for July 26th and the start of training camp at St. John Fisher.
This has been one of the biggest off seasons in recent Bills history. The off season moves coupled with the national buzz about the team, will make this the most anticipated training camp in twenty years. In addition to seeing how Mario Williams and Mark Anderson will turn around what was a woeful pass rush last season, camp will also feature some interesting battles for key positions.
Who will be the number two receiver? What kind of contributions will the Bills get from rookie receiver T.J Graham. What about the guy throwing them the football? Much has been made about Ryan Fitzpatrick's work with new quarterbacks coach David Lee on mechanics. Next month we'll begin to see if it is making a difference.
Can rookie Cordy Glenn secure the starting left tackle spot? How will the Bills utilize both Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller?
On defense the Bills will be watching the progress of second year man Kelvin Sheppard who is the starting middle linebacker at this point. We'll all be wondering if they'll get anything from Shawne Merriman who looked tremendous last summer only to break down again and have his season cut short. There will be some very interesting battles at cornerback with Terrence McGee hoping to prove he can stay healthy and still start. Leodis Mcklevin has one more season to prove his first round selection wasn't a mistake. Big things are expected from second year pro Aaron Williams and this year's first round pick, Stephon Gilmore.
WGR's Joe Buscaglia will be out at One Bills Drive to cover the minicamp and will have numerous articles available for you to check out this week.
So don't put your feet up and relax, there's plenty going on in Buffalo this week and we'll have it covered on WGR550 and at WGR550.com.