First, I’d like to apologize to you readers for the egregious pun in the title courtesy of my friend Joe (@JoeSzprygada). The opportunity is simply too great to pass up. And, as I like to say, a bad pun is better than no pun at all. So… sorrynotsorry.
Anyway, as you already know, the Sabres’ offseason officially got underway yesterday (with respect to the draft and John Scott) when the long-awaited Derek Roy trade finally went down.
Roy was cast off to the bars and nightclubs of Dallas in return for forward Steve Ott and defenseman Adam Pardy.
In many regards, Ott is probably the type of player we all hoped trading Roy would bring for the Sabres. He’s tough. He hits. And, above all, he leaves it all on the ice shift in and shift out.
Nothing matters more to Ott than winning, which is a trait that will endear the Sabres’ new addition to every Buffalo hockey fan.
But hidden in the acquisition of Ott is the real idea behind the trade: It was simply time for Roy to go. Addition by subtraction by most accounts.
Trading Roy is the Sabres’ first crack at changing their culture and likely the last chance the team will have to win with its “core” before it’s entirely borken apart. For most, Roy symbolized both the good and the bad times for the Sabres over the last decade or so, but mostly the bad.
In the eyes of Sabres fans, Roy epitomized the professional athlete. He partied — a lot. He enjoyed a good hot chocolate and red velvet cake (he was a frequent customer of mine at the local Timmy Ho’s before road trips). He used his job title to milk every little bit he could out of his fame and fortune. But above all else, he loved himself more than just about anything — even winning — which ultimately led to his undoing.
From what I’ve read and seen on ice once or twice, Ott is pretty much the polar opposite, which is exactly what was needed to refresh the psyche of Sabres fans. With Ott, you’re getting a guy who will be all-in for the Sabres organization, and that’s all anyone could ask for in return for Roy.
From a strictly philosophical standpoint, this trade was a huge win for the Sabres. But how will it affect the team on the ice? Lets take a look.
After you’re done reading this post, make your way over here, here and here (it must’ve been a slow Monday night at BW) for more on the Roy-Ott trade. There’s already been a wide variety of takes posted by other members of the Basement Brigade elsewhere, so I’m going to try to avoid re-hashing their points.
Where does Ott fit in?
It’s no secret that Ott is not going to solve any of the Sabres’ offensive woes. However, he is certainly capable of filling some of the team’s other holes.
Ott ranked eighth in the league last season in faceoff percentage among those who took more than 1,000 draws at 55.5 percent. Yes, that’s better than Paul Gaustad. Although Regier claimed they see Ott as a better fit on the wing, there’s no reason for one of the best faceoff men in the league to play anywhere other than center.
So, you figure now that Roy is gone and with Tyler Ennis and Cody Hodgson centering the first and second lines, Ott should slide right in to the No. 3 pivot role for now, anyway (Regier made a comment about still searching for a FA center. More on that later).
At a $2.95 million cap hit per season with two years left on his current deal, that’s $900,000 more than Gaustad made last season and is $300,000 less than the price Goose re-upped with Nashville for recently.
Ott is, by my account, a vast improvement over Goose. So if he was brought in to fill that vacated role, it’s certainly an upgrade. Not to mention Ott has been known as one of the better agitators in the league throughout his nine-year NHL career, another trait Gaustad can not stake a claim to. He’s certainly not afraid to drop the gloves, and ranked fourth in the league last season with 278 hits.
(Be sure to check out the other Ott/Roy pieces. Joe’s ode to Roy, Chris writes about how the Sabres got tougher with Ott and Q&A with a Dallas writer about him)
Obviously if he’s replacing Goose, any type of scoring whatsoever is a plus. From the outside, it appears as though Ott should be a lock for at least 30 points — a mark he’s reached in each of his last four seasons.
The thing I’m a little leery on, though, is how he’ll fit into whichever role Sabres expect from him, which is probably dependent on how the rest of the offseason plays out.
The Ott of old was known as being one of the league’s most annoying pests. Recently, though, the Stars utilized the former first-round pick as more of a compliment to the team’s scoring forwards, playing him alongside top offensive players Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson for much of last season.
To me, his offensive worth will be determined on what role the Sabres ask him to play. I think it’s probably fair to be skeptical about whether or not he can put up 30-40 points playing third-line minutes alongside the Gerbes and Leinos instead of top-six minutes with the Benns and Erikssons.
With that to consider, was it worth giving up Roy for a glorified agitator? As of right now, yes. But that may change if the Sabres fail to score while Roy plays to a point-per-game pace down in Big D.
Also, don’t forget about Pardy. He’s 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds and sure isn’t anything flashy, but Regier’s had some luck with throw-in defensemen of late, so I’ll trust him on this one.
How do you replace Roy?
If you believe anything Paul Hamilton says, you were under the impression Roy wasn’t worth much of anything.
If you believe anything I say (or the thoughts of any other reasonable hockey mind), you’d have known anyone suggesting Roy has no value was certifiably insane.
As it turns out, a center who averages nearly 70 points per healthy season actually has some value in a league where centers who average nearly 70 points per healthy season aren’t so easy to find. In this case, he was worth a hard-working, passionate center who, at his best, can play top-six minutes, win key faceoffs and ruffle the feathers of opponents with some of the best in the league, and a thrown-in defenseman.
Contrary to what some people obviously think judging by the joy over Roy finally leaving town, he did play a role on this team. A pretty substantial one, in fact. So who fills that role now that Roy’s gone?
With the way the roster looks right now, that’s a tough question to answer.
Ideally, the Sabres are not done adding pieces this offseason. With eight (nine if you count Brayden McNabb) NHL-level defensemen on the roster, it’s reasonable to think a few of those names will exit in order to add another forward or two.
Obviously if all goes as planned and no other significant additions are made, Ennis and Hodgson will be those counted on to make up for the points lost with Roy. With just 44 points last season, it doesn’t look like a lot to make up. But to correctly assess Roy’s actual offensive worth to this team, you’ve got to look at his numbers throughout his career — not just last season. In that case, we’ll be expecting significant jumps in the point production of Ennis and Hodgson — neither of whom have ever eclipsed 41 points in their albeit short NHL careers.
I’m not trying to be the downer here. I love the trade and think it was the right one to make, as long as this was the best offer on the table for Roy. I’m just raising legitimate questions we should all be thinking about as we chase Roy out of town.
The most important question of them all: Who will be downtown to charm all those 18-year-old girls now that Roy is missing from the streets of Chippewa?
What does it mean for the rest of the offseason?
As I said, hopefully this was just the first move in an extensive offseason plan for the Sabres.
If all indications are correct, this trade was just that — a starting point.
The big question that came after news of the trade broke was how dealing Roy would affect the Sabres in their quest to acquire Bobby Ryan from Anaheim — a player they’ve been rumored a top suitor for this offseason.
It remains to be seen, but the general consensus is that Roy wasn’t even part of the Ryan discussion. Or, if he was, he wasn’t a significant part.
So that leaves the question of who is the main piece Anaheim is asking for Ryan, and that answer is probably Tyler Ennis. Also, as per longtime Oilers reporter and legendary columnist Jim Matheson in a tweet earlier Monday, the Ducks will probably also be after a Luke Adam, Marcus Foligno or Joel Armia or lots and lots of draft picks.
Is that a price you’re willing to pay for Ryan? At this point, my personal opinion is yes. But now that Roy’s gone, it may be awfully hard to part with Ennis. Maybe Stafford would entice the Ducks enough? Who knows (C’mon, people. Get real. Parise is not signing in Buffalo… Think Pittsburgh, New Jersey or Chicago all have the upper hand, thus making it irrelevant whether or not Stafford stays in Buffalo).
It’s also worth noting that Regier suggested during his presser yesterday he would not be moving Ennis or Hodgson now that Roy is gone, but talk is cheap. He also said, and I’m paraphrasing here, that the Sabres are still looking to add another center via free agency. Interesting.
News also surfaced not long after the trade out of Canada where a reporter from Quebec suggested he’s hearing the Sabres may indeed be in on the Rick Nash sweepstakes.
Although it’s probably pointless to delve into too much at this point, it’s worth noting the Sabres are not, to public knowledge, on Nash’s list of teams he’d accept a trade to. While that could change, the price tag for Nash’s services suggests acquiring him will cost the Sabres a pretty penny.
As good as Nash sounds, I’d much prefer seeing him and his $7.8 million cap hit go elsewhere… to Philadelphia, perhaps?
A trade of Nash to the Flyers would bode well for the Sabres if they’re still serious about acquiring Ryan, as Philly is by far the Sabres’ biggest threat in a trade for either player.
If the Flyers wind up missing out on both Parise and Nash, you’ve got to think they’ll be desperate for a trade with the Ducks. Desperate enough to trade Brayden Schenn or Sean Couturier? Who knows. But if either of those names surface in trade discussion, there’s simply no way the Sabres can match what Philly has to offer. In that case, we can all forget about Bobby Ryan in blue and gold.
Regardless, like most Sabres fans, I’m pretty pleased with how the first couple days of free agency have gone for the Sabres. But I’m also still left longing for much more. We’ll see what happens. Hopefully we can write about something much bigger very soon.
You almost certainly don’t agree with Brandon’s opinion on this matter, so please, let him hear about it in the comment box or be sure to follow him on Twitter @B_Schlag and express your distaste.