September 15, 2011
In the next eight years, Tyler Myers(notes) will probably win a Norris Trophy. He plays in every situation. He puts up points. He's noticeable on the ice, and not just because he can lick the bottom of orbiting satellites without straining his neck.
Locking the 21-year-old defenseman up for seven years and $38.5 million, as the Buffalo Sabres officially announced they had on Thursday morning, is another sign that the franchise has gained considerable stability and resources under new owner Terry Pegula, who told fans "Tyler ain't goin' anywhere" as he delivered tickets on Wednesday.
"We had two sides that wanted to stay together," Myers' agent, J.P. Barry, said by phone. "Tyler wanted to remain a Sabre, and having this done at an early stage was something that he wanted. He's happy that the club approached him about wanting to do this early."
The $5.5 million annual salary had been assumed for days; the only issue was term, and the term announced is one year longer than the six years that had been anticipated.
The money is classic CBA cap massaging, according to Bob McKenzie: $12 million in Year 1, and then $6 million, $5 million, $5 million, $4 million, $3.5 million and $3 million. (Way to protect against a rollback, JP Barry.)
But even with a friendly cap hit, the Sabres are facing some really difficult financial decisions for 2012.
Myers's cap hit, beginning in 2012-13, currently leaves the Buffalo Sabres with under $10 million in cap space entering Summer 2012, based on the 16 players they have under contract.
According to Cap Geek, forwards make up eight of those players; among the unrestricted free agents next summer for Buffalo are Brad Boyes(notes), Jochen Hecht(notes), Ales Kotalik(notes) and Paul Gaustad(notes); both Patrick Kaleta(notes) and Tyler Ennis(notes) are restricted free agents.
Thankfully, Pegula can and will foot the bill for a high-salaried roster, as he is this season. But we're talking about a roster that needs a half-dozen pieces and that has over $55 million committed against the cap already. Throw in the delightful uncertainty of the next CBA negotiation, and matters get even more complicated.
This isn't to say that signing Myers was a bad idea, because anyone who would proffer that is an idiot. This is to say that the Sabres suddenly have nine players making more than $4 million per season; in 2009 they had five.
Their core makes a bundle. GM Darcy Regier has done a nice job keeping the cap hits reasonable (despite what you think about Villie Leino), but the real challenge is filling out the roster with enough talent beyond that core to win the Stanley Cup. (Welcome to Ken Holland's world.)
Two words for the Sabres, Regier and Pegula: Luxury Tax.
If the NHLPA pushes for it, and there's no reason to assume it won't, teams like the Buffalo Sabres should support a way for deep-pocketed owners to increase their payroll as they see fit, but with ramifications that will trickle money to the downtrodden at the floor. It's time has come.