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Sabres Have Options with Sekera

July 6, 2011

Upon hearing the news that Sabres blue-liner Andrej Sekera was filing for arbitration yesterday, I thought to myself “it’s been fun, Andrej.”  Sekera, who is just 25 years old, could get a large raise from the meager $1,000,000 he earned this past season.  The Slovakian finished the year with just 3 goals (along with 26 assists), yet appeared completely in control of multiple games this season.  Sekera was also a healthy scratch for Buffalo at one point in February for a three game stretch.  Following that, he came back and looked like a different player, scoring 10 points (2+8) over his next 5 games.  You have to take the good with the bad, and hopefully over time he learns how to be more consistent.

Will he return with Blue & Gold next year?It’s not a foregone conclusion that Sekera’s case will ever reach an arbitrator, the team could reach an agreement with him on an extension at any time.  There is still plenty of time to hammer out a deal, as Sekera’s ruling could be pushed into August.  If an extension cannot be reached, I fear that Andrej will get a very favorable ruling in court.  The question becomes, is he worth it if he is awarded a contract over 2.5, or even 3 million?  Keep in mind that Buffalo has a very crowded top 4 currently, and Sekera is on the outside looking in.

The Sabres haven’t been scared to walk away from rulings in the past.  In 2006, forward JP Dumont was awarded 2.9 million dollars in arbitration, and the Sabres were forced to walk away from it.  Last summer, Buffalo walked away from a $1,000,000 contract for Tim Kennedy, a Buffalo native.  It would surprise me very much if Buffalo just walked away from Sekera, due to his potential trade value.

If the Sabres don’t feel they have room on their roster for #44, a trade needs to happen.  There is always a large market for smooth skating offensive defensemen, especially a young one like Sekera.  Buffalo could perhaps package Sekera in a monster deal for a #1 center, this of course being the best case scenario.  Another possibility is seeing him flopped for a young center who can play on the Sabres 3rd line behind Derek Roy and Ville Leino.  The one name that jumps out is 27 year old Detroit C Valtteri Filppula.  Detroit’s system would benefit Sekera greatly, and they could be a frontrunner to land Sekera in a trade.  Filppula has been consistent the past 4 years, scoring between 35 and 40 points in each season.  His career shooting percentage is 12.2%, and he steps his game up in the playoffs.  In the past 3 seasons, Filppula has 33 points (9+24) in 45 games, compared to 114 points (39+75) in 206 regular season games in that same span.  While not a faceoff specialist, he won a respectable 51.5% of his draws this year.  He’d be a great fit for the Sabres, while only leaving a hole at the #7 defenseman, assuming Marc-Andre Gragnani resigns with the team.

If the Sabres feel they need to keep Sekera, the new contract will push the Sabres over the salary cap of 64.3 million.  Currently, the team has just over 354,000 in space.  Waiving Al Kotalik and Shoane Morrison will free 5 million in cap space, which is more than enough to ink Sekera to a deal and slide in under the cap.  It will leave Regier handcuffed if he wants to make any more moves this summer or at the trade deadline.  Is he really worth it as a 3rd pairing guy?  I like Sekera, he has shown flashes of greatness with the puck.  He has also shown lapses in his own zone and in his all around game.  I don’t think paying a bottom pair dman over 2.5 million is in the best interest in the team when it comes to building a Stanley Cup contender.

Whatever choice the Sabres make – aside from walking away all-together – there will some benefit, along with some issues.  It’s just time for Buffalo to move on from #44, and invest their money in another forward.  The team has Drew Schiestel waiting in Rochester right now, as someone who could become the 7th defenseman.  They don’t have an NHL ready 3rd line center anywhere in their organization, and that’s whats more important.

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