You may not believe it considering the Buffalo Sabres are at the very bottom of the NHL standings, but the job of General Manager for the franchise comes with a lot of positives right now.
In short, lots of draft picks, tons of cap room and an owner who is willing to spend whatever it takes, both on and off the ice, to build a winner, make the job very appealing.
The new GM will have plenty of flexibility to build the team in whatever way he sees fit. The Sabres have just 12 players under contract for next season and with the cap going up, they will have a massive amount of cap space available.
The projected cap for 2014-2015 is $71 million. According to the web site capgeek.com, those 12 players under contract for next season take up just over $30 million in cap space. If the Sabres wanted to spend up to the cap they could spend about $40 million.
The CBA rules require every team spend at least to the salary cap floor which will be $52 million. Buffalo has to hand out $21 million in deals just to get to the floor.
As far as players under contract, there are seven forwards:Cody Hodgson, Drew Stafford, Ville Leino, Patrick Kaleta, Mikhail Grigorenko, Zemgus Girgensons and Brian Flynn.
Four defenseman are signed through at least next season: Tyler Myers, Christian Ehrhoff, Mike Weber and Mark Pysyk. Goalie Jhonas Enroth is inked too.
Rasmus Ristolainen, Johan Larsson, Joel Armia and Nikita Zadorov are also under contract but all four will make less than $1 million so even if all of them are on the Sabres roster, they would take up less than $4 million in space.
One of the tasks for the new GM will be to determine what he wants to do with the Sabres pending unrestricted free agents, the biggest names being Ryan Miller, Steve Ott and Matt Moulson. Other free agents after the season include: Cody McCormick, John Scott, Matt D'Agostini, Henrik Tallinder and Alexander Sulzer.
The Sabres restricted free agents are: Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno, Luke Adam, Jamie McBain and Brayden McNabb.
The new GM could open up more cap space, if need be, by buying out the contract of Leino who has provided very little since signing on via free agency. Leino has three years left on his deal and is due to earn $11 million. If the Sabres buy out Leino, and they have until June 15 to do so, they'd take a $7.3 million cap hit but it can be spread out over six years.
The cap space certainly means the Sabres can give out whatever they want to keep any or all of the Miller, Ott, Moulson group. It also means they can make trades and not have to worry about picking up big contracts or they can be big spenders in the free agent market, if they so desire.
Some of the big names out there include: Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Paul Stastny, Marion Gaborik and some guy named Vanek. Two prime candidates, should they even hit the market, will be Ryan Callahan and Alexander Steen.
Callahan is a player I've always loved. If you need offense, Callahan can provide that. He has three 20 goal seasons and 128 goals in 429 career games. You also get a guy who will play physical and brings the work ethic and passion for the game the Sabres are seeking. Callahan is the New York Rangers captain so you get leadership too. Finish checks, block shots, come to the aid of a teammate in a scrap, Callahan does all of that. You might wonder why he'd want to come to Buffalo. Callahan is from Rochester so his family can see him play on a regular basis if he's only an hour away. There is one potential issue with Callahan. His all out playing style has led to a handful of injuries over the years. He's missed 37 games over the last five years and after missing the first eight games back in October due to an injury suffered at the end of last season, Callahan is now sidelined by a knee injury and will miss the next four to six weeks.
The other intriguing name is Alexander Steen. The St. Louis Blues winger is having a career year with 21 goals in 29 games. If you're worried that it’s a contract season, Steen has topped 20 goals two other times in his career and has 144 goals in his eight plus seasons in the NHL.
As far as the draft picks awaiting the new GM, the Sabres have two first rounders and three second rounders in 2014. One of the two first round picks came in the Vanek trade with the Islanders and they have the right to defer that pick to the 2015 draft.
If that happens, Buffalo would have two first round selections in 2015 to go along with three picks in round two.