The Sabres re-signed Mike Grier this week.  The move was generally accepted as positive.  It also gave Sabres fans a venue to complain about Sabres management and their lack of action.  Lots of comments containing ‘Yes, that’s good, But…’are being spotted on message boards.  The popular attack of the bitter Sabres fan includes bringing up Drury & Briere.  The loss of those two looked bad at the time, but was letting them go bad in hindsight?  Also, those are not the only two players the Sabres have let walk away or traded away.  To analyze the front office I will give them a grade on each significant player they have let walk or traded away since the lock-out.  To be clear, the grade is based on how well the player has played for his new team and his salary.  The question I’m trying to answer is, HOW GOOD A DECISION IT WAS TO LET THE PLAYER LEAVE?

Daniel Briere – (C-)  The Big Fish of the group.  At this point most fans would point to this Buffalo escapee as the worst loss of all since the lockout.  I disagree.  Briere has missed a bunch of games for Philly.  He also eats up $8 Million in salary Cap space each year.  The Sabres dropped the ball by not signing Briere long-term the year before and for that they deserve a poor grade.  Instead they let him go to arbitration.  Briere at $5 Million per year would have been an absolute bargain.  Now he’s scoring playoff goals for Philadelphia.  We miss you, Danny.

Jay McKee – (B) McKee was paid $4Million per season by St. Louis in his free agent deal.  Again, the Sabres dropped the ball by not signing him earlier to what could have been a much lower price.  McKee was tough and blocked lots of shots.  Time has shown, however, that he is not worth anything close to $4M per year.

Brian Campbell – (B-) Campbell is just simply not worth what he’s being paid.  He’s a great skater and the Sabres still miss him.  There was not a great opportunity to sign him for a low price.  The price was high from the start and Regier smartly never took the bait.  Trading Campbell was a sad day, but a necessary evil.

Ales Kotalik (A) – Symptomatic of The Sabres problems.  He had to go.  I can’t believe Edmonton traded us something for him.

Mike Grier (B-) He supposedly left because he wanted to.  But I think the team could have done a better job of convincing him to stay.  He was friends with Drury and may have contributed to Drury’s discontent that eventually sent him packing.

Dmitri Kalinin – (A) – Good riddance. He had size but obviously lacked other attributes.  He has done nothing since leaving Buffalo.  Good call, Darcy.

Andrew Peters (B+) – Peters was a heavyweight fighter.  Now the Sabres do not have any such player.  The reality is we really don’t need one.  I liked Peters a lot, but he was just taking up a roster space.

Dainius Zubrus (B-) – Zubrus was a big forward who can play on a top 2 line.  I am currently arguing that the Sabres need more big forwards.  Zubrus also scored no goals in 15 playoff games for Buffalo.  New Jersey signed him for $3.4M a year.  Sorry, you gotta score more than zero playoff goals to get $3.4M, buddy. (Well, unless you’re Derek Roy who also makes about that much $ and scored zero playoff goals this year, Ouch!)

Marty Biron (C ) – At the time, the Biron trade seemed necessary.  Biron was going to be paid as a starting goalie by some team.  The Sabres supposedly could not afford to pay him.  Instead they went cheap and rode Miller, a strategy that has failed.  Biron didn’t pan out as a starter, but he is still a legit backup, something we’ve been missing for the past 3 seasons. The Sabres can redeem themselves by signing Biron this off-season.

Chris Drury (B-) – By all indications the Sabres could have signed the Captain to a multi-year deal that was worth less than what the Rangers eventually gave him.(5 years, $35M)  He has not lived up to the Rangers contract and I would not want him on this team at $7M per season.  Let it be noted that Drury’s goal production has fallen every season since he left Buffalo.  I’m ok with him not being on the Sabres.  I don’t think the Sabres would have any better shot at the Cup if he were on the team now.  We had him for his best years and still couldn’t win it.  No need to go blow the cap space chasing a dying dream.

Taylor Pyatt (D) – I think The Sabres should have kept Pyatt.  His offensive production skyrocketed while playing with the Sedins in Vancouver.  He is also a big body that could have filled a role on the top lines.  The Sabres just didn’t know how to use him.  Time has shown that he had untapped potential.

Clarke MacArthur (B+) He needed to go.  He had his chance and couldn’t keep his place on the top 2 lines.  That was on a team with a weak top 2 lines.  He scored a decent number of goals, but lacked grit and never stood out as a player that brought too much to the table.  I wish him well in Atlanta.

JP Dumont (F-) Not Briere, Not Drury.  JP Dumont is the one that got away.  He scored 20 goals for the Sabres in ’05-’06.   He was big(6’1”, 205) strong on his skates, and could play on the top lines.  He is the big forward the Sabres have been missing.  He has worn the A for Nashville, and scored 65 points the first three years he played for The Preds.  The Sabres walked away from his $2.9M arbitration award after ’05-’06.  What makes this such a crime is not that they lost a player; it’s who they kept instead… Max Afinogenov.

Max Afinogenov (A) - We’re not giving grades for bad signings(see above), we’re grading how smart it was to let go of a player at a certain time.  Max should have been let go earlier, but nobody wanted him.  He did well with Kovalchuk in Atlanta, but his career was going nowhere in Buffalo. He had to go.

My final tally is:

1 F-

1 D

1 C-

1 C

4 B-

1 B

1 B+

3 A

Another dimension that needs to be added to this assessment is whether the GM waited too long to start thinking of re-signing a player.  In Briere’s case, this is part of the equation.  On July 1, 2007 It was easy to say that they were not willing to match Briere’s contract with Philly.  However,   The Sabres had a chance to sign him earlier and gave up that chance, thinking the price tag might somehow go down.  The inaction that led to the loss of the two captains seems to have taught Darcy Regier a lesson.  The Grier signing is an indication he knows not to wait until it’s too late.   

Many fans will disagree with this assessment; wholly or individually.  That is absolutely fine, it’s my opinion.  I just think it's way too short-sighted for fans to bring up only two players when over a dozen significant players have left the Organ-I-zation since the lockout.  To judge Darcy Regier you must look at the entire portfolio of moves, not just the two most publicized.