There is no question that the ones most hurt by the National Hockey League lockout are fans, arena employees and local businesses. But we too often put all NHL players into one gigantic pile of greedy, over-privileged jerks. Clearly that is not the case. There is a huge gap between players who are making $6 million and $500,000. There is also a difference between players with contracts through 2018 and guys fighting every year for a roster spot.
Within the Buffalo Sabres' roster alone, we see many different contract situations. For example, in 2018-19, defenseman Tyler Myers is slated to make $5.5 million, while forward John Scott was supposed to make $600,000 this year and will be a free agent in 2013-14.
Even the richer players' careers are affected by the lockout. Some are missing a chance to earn their next big contract, some looking to prove they still belong on a roster and some are looking to accomplish on-ice goals.
If the NHL ends up canceling the entire 2012-13 season, here is how the lockout will affect different Sabres players:
D - Robyn Regehr
The 32-year-old defenseman had a solid season for the Sabres in 2011-12, but showed signs that he isn't the same top-pairing, stay-at-home specialist as he was a few years ago. Regehr is in the final year of his contract and would have looked at 2012-13 as an opportunity to prove he could still be a quality defenseman. With the Sabres' organizational depth with defenseman, he would likely have been playing to show the other 29 teams he deserves not only a multi-year contract.
F – Cody Hodgson
This season would have been Hodgson's chance to play as a top line – if not No. 1 – center. He likely would have been in between Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville. After this season, the 22-year-old center will be a restricted free agent. He would have liked the chance to put up big numbers and earn a long-term deal to play in Buffalo for a long time. Instead, if a season is missed, he will negotiate based on AHL numbers and potential.
G – Ryan Miller
Nobody feels bad for Ryan Miller and his $6.25 million cap hit. But Miller's chances at the Hall of Fame are taking a hit with every game the NHL cancels. Right now, he has 252 wins, which ranks 42nd on the all-time list. He might need to get to 450 or 500 to be considered a Hall of Fame goalie. Miller is also missing out at a chance to bring the momentum from the second half of last season into this year and at a shot to bounce back from an average overall year.
F – Matt Ellis
Heading into the last year of his contract, this fourth-line grinder was only set to make $525,000 in 2012-13. He played in 60 games last season, scoring eight points. Because of his personality, Ellis will always have a pro hockey job, but 2012-13 would have been an opportunity for him to prove he belongs as an every-night NHL player and worthy of a multi-year, one-way deal.
G - Jhonas Enroth
While he's only played 41 NHL games, Enroth has proved that he can not only play in the NHL, but possibly be a No. 1 goaltender. After 2012-13, he's set to be a restricted free agent. With another solid season as Miller's backup, he had a shot at proving he could either be the Sabres' future goaltender worthy of a multi-year contract or a trade asset. Instead, he might end up stuck with a short deal at a backup's salary.
D - Jordan Leopold
Like Regehr, Leopold is 32 and in the final year of his contract. The Sabres' defenseman has been a reliable option, but can certainly hear the footsteps of the likes of prospects Brayden McNabb and T.J. Brennan. This season, he could have shown the Sabres or another club that he can play at a high level into his late-30s. While he was strong in 2011-12, teams could point to his 11 fewer points than the previous season and age 33 as reasons not to award him with a multi-year deal.
D - Alexander Sulzer
Sulzer came over in the Sabres' trade for Cody Hodgson as a throw in, but ended up playing several excellent games down the stretch. The German defenseman had never played more than 31 games in a season, but was penciled in as one of the Sabres' six D-men. He would have been given the ice time to prove he could be a full-time NHL player.
D - Mike Weber
Coming off a difficult 2011-12 season, Weber would have been aiming to show the Sabres he deserves ice time. He's only 24 and has shown the potential to be a reliable option. Weber will be a restricted free agent after 2012-13. If he had posted a solid season, the Sabres' young D-man could have been looking at a long-term contract and a solidified spot on the back end. But if the season is lost, so is his chance at gaining leverage.
Other players who will be missing out...
Tyler Ennis could have had his first chance at play full-time center. He'll have to wait another year.
Thomas Vanek would likely have scored his 500th point. He sits at 447.
Jason Pominville also has a shot at 500 points with 431. Currently at 175, he is a lock to score his 200th goal.
Ville Leino will have to wait to prove he isn't a bust
Adam Pardy may never play for the Sabres. He's a free agent after this season
Marcus Foligno, Brayden McNabb and Luke Adam will have to postpone proving they are legit NHL players
Follow Matthew Coller on Twitter @matthewwgr