Summer has all of us hockey fans, and especially Sabres fans, looking for our regular fix of hockey and hockey news. Since the Sabres were big spenders in free agency, hockey news in Buffalo has slowed to a trickle. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the hockey world, the biggest news (besides Sean Avery's recent arrest) has been talk about Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber's 7.5 million dolllar arbitration award.
A lot of the talk has involved what effect it will have on L.A. Kings RFA holdout Drew Doughty and his negotiations with his club. However, this award may also play a role in the future negotiations involving young, talented defensemen. As it turns out, Buffalo has a young, talented defenseman in Tyler Myers. It also turns out the 2011-2012 NHL season will be the final year of Myers' entry level deal that has him making $875,000 against the cap. He's going to get a big raise, and his agent is going to use Weber's award as leverage.
One hockey cliche says "It's harder to prevent goals than to score them." When a team has a defenseman that can prevent and score goals with consitency, they've got a piece of the puzzle. That's a big reason Weber got so much money. He's a critical player on the Nashville roster, and he knows it. He was second in voting for the Norris trophy (the NHL's top defenseman) and posted 16 goals and 48 points in 82 games.
Myers has a very similar skill set, and he's only 21. He has out up a 48 point season and a 37 point season and is a +13 for his career. He won the Calder trophy as the league's top rookie in 2009-2010 and many believe he will contend for the Norris for years to come has he rounds out his game. He's also an important piece on the Sabres' power play with 30 of his 85 career points coming on the man advantage. Oh yeah, and he's bigger than Shea Weber, standing 6'8" (in case you haven't heard) and is still filling out that monsterous frame.
Now on to the crux of the matter, what Shea Weber's award will mean in Myers' negotiations. Usually, when an award is handed, agents with players of similar skill sets will use the award as a starting point.
The good news is, a big reason Weber and the Predators went to arbitration wasn't necesarily a matter of money or contract term, it was a matter of Nashville's competitivness. The good news in Myers' negotiations will be that Pegula has plenty of money and has shown time and time again he will do whatever it takes to help this team win the big prize. The other good news is that if the two sides can reach a long term deal, the cap hit can be reduced by spreading the money out over the length of the contract (isn't that right, Christian Ehrhoff?) Weber got the award he did because it was a 1-year deal.
One main concern here in Buffalo is if the cap space will be there. Even though it seems Buffalo has everything to keep Myers happy, he's still going to come with a big price tag. Let's say his cap hit is between $5.5-$6.5 million. The Sabres are currently $3 million over the cap. Uh-oh.
However, a lot of big salaries come off the books next season (2012-2013, that is). Boyes ($4 million), Hecht ($3.525 million), Gaustad ($2.3 million), and Morrisonn (2.075 million) are all at the end of their contracts. Boyes and Hecht alone make enough room for Myers' likely cap hit. If Gaustad resigns, it'll likely be at a discount, and Morrisonn will probably be leaving town with Hecht and Boyes.
Furthermore, the salary cap has been going up since the lockout ended. It is likely the cap will rise once more, which will also provide room for the Sabres to resign RFA's Patrick Kaleta and Tyler Ennis.
Now the cap hit I gave is merely a guess based on current cap hits. However, Webere's award may drive up Myers' price. However, certain players' deals like that of the Blackhawks' Duncan Keith (13 years, $72 million, and a $5.538 cap hit) will keep everything within reason.
Hockey is just like any business, supply and demand and competeors' prices have a lot do with what you're going to pay for a product. Myers is a premium product and prices for other premium products (Keith, Weber) will dictate what the Sabres will have to pay to retain his services.