But I suppose we can now insert the term “officially” into Sabres GM Darcy Regier’s statement that he intended to retain the rights to Briere. In fact, Regier stated the Sabres would retain the rights to all their RFA’s (he must have forgotten that Andrew Peters still played for them), and in a radio interview this morning Sabres winger Jason Pominville indicated he received his offer yesterday. That tells me the Sabres have made their decisions, but we will know for sure Monday at 5:00, which is the deadline for qualifying offers to be received.
At that point, the Sabres have the right of first refusal on their RFA’s, which means other teams can make the players offers, but the Sabres would always be able to match. If they chose not to match, they would be eligible for draft-pick compensation based on the amount of money the RFA was offered by the other team. This is important, because I think the Sabres could be vulnerable despite the fact that offer sheets to RFA’s are fairly rare.
The formula for compensation is based on the amount offered and is as follows:
Under $660,000 = no compenastion
$660,000-$1 million = Third Round
Over $1 million-$2 million = Second Round
Over $2 million-$3 million = First Round and Third Round
Over $3 million-$4 million = First, second and third round
Over $4 million-$5 million = Two First Round, one Second, one Third
Over $5 million = Four First Round Picks
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Do you see where the Sabres are vulnerable? If other teams make offer sheets for four or five years at a mere $2 million per season to a few of our younger guys we might just lose them with little compensation. We all know Darcy Regier’s aversion to long-term contracts, and if that offer got tossed out to a Brian Campbell (RFA qualifying offer of $459,800) or Henrik Tallinder ($591,800) he might just back away and end up with nothing but a third-round pick. Heck, if the offer escalated a bit he definitely wouldn’t touch it, and if you’re a team like the Rangers or Leafs locking up a good, young player for $3 mil per isn’t such a bad plan.
The other area where the Sabres could be impacted adversely is player-elected salary arbitration. The players have until July 5 to decide if they would like to go to arbitration, and for some Sabres it could be a big winner. Let’s take Max Afinogenov as an example. His qualifying offer will be $1,086,000. He led the Sabres in scoring and can easily make the statistical case that he deserves similar compensation to Chris Drury, who made just shy of $3 million last year. To make things even scarier, he had statistically superior seasons to Todd Bertuzzi (salary: $5,269,333), Jarome Iginla ($7,000,000) and Miro Satan ($4,015,000). Afinogenov could be a huge winner in arbitration, and the Sabres might be forced to decide if they want Max making $3 million based on an arbitrators decision. The only other option is to “walk away” from the arbitration ruling, which would make Max a free agent. Another player who could cash big in arbitration is Ales Kotalik, who finished third on the Sabres in scoring and whose tender will be for $837,900. How about JP Dumont, who will be offered $1,598,000. Think he couldn’t angle for an additional million?
Iis there any doubt that Darcy Regier is keenly aware of the potential arbitration problem with Afinogenov? When you tie that to his statements that he wants to deal some forwards, I think he is laying the groundwork for a bigger-named, arbitration eligible player to be moved. One salary getting out of line with the Sabres formula could adversely impact the teams ability to sign their RFA’s at levels they are comfortable with, plus cause problems with team chemistry.
I don’t envy Regier for the position he is in as he works to keep his core together for the next couple years while keeping salaries reasonable.