That’s right, I’m jumping on the wagon. Every NHL fan site has published its own team’s version of the following article in the past few days, so here’s Buffalo’s!
The 2019 NHL Draft is over, but Jason Botterill’s work isn’t, not by a long shot. The Buffalo Sabres general manager still has a tall task ahead of him in purging his team of dead weight and filling the void with something better. And he’ll have to do it with the Sword of Damocles hanging over his head. However, he could get off to a great start with a simple move.
The Anaheim Ducks recently bought alternate captain Corey Perry out of the remainder of the eight-year contract extension he signed in 2013. His last three seasons with the Ducks saw his production drop considerably and, after he missed more than half of last season, Anaheim decided it was time to cut its losses.
In 14 seasons in California, Perry pretty much did it all, winning the Stanley Cup in 2007, the Rocket Richard and Hart Memorial Trophies in 2011, Olympic Gold Medals in 2010 and 2014 and receiving four All-Star nominations. Perry and longtime teammate Ryan Getzlaf were the Ducks’ co-franchise cornerstones for years both and were essential to the team’s 2007 Stanley Cup victory over Ottawa. Despite turning 22 in media res, Perry tallied 15 points in the 2007 playoffs.
In 998 games with Anaheim, Perry recorded 372 goals and 404 assists for 776 points. Known as one of the NHL’s premier pests, he also wracked up over 1100 penalty minutes. Now 34, Perry will be a free agent this summer for the first time in his NHL career, and Buffalo should strongly consider signing him.
Now I know this seems like a ludicrous suggestion. Perry is aging and his best is clearly behind him, yes. But the Haileybury, ON native still offers plenty of things that the Sabres could desperately use. Let’s take a look:
Added depth & goal scoring
As I just said, Perry’s career has been in decline over the last couple of seasons. He missed the first 52 games of 2018-19 and didn’t exactly return with a bang, putting up just 10 points in the 31 games remaining. However, there’s always the possibility that a change of scenery could benefit him and Buffalo should be willing to take that risk.
Perry is a winger and wouldn’t fill Buffalo’s hole at second line center, but he would fit in well on the second line nevertheless. It’s safe to assume that new coach Ralph Krueger will keep Jeff Skinner, Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart as the team’s top line after how effective the trio was last season. If Perry were signed, he could be grouped with Kyle Okposo and whomever the new center will be to bolster the depth.
A one-time 50 and 40 goal scorer and a four-time 30 goal scorer, Perry would also serve as a finisher for pass-first players like Okposo and Conor Sheary. Since it seems that Eichel converted to playmaking this past season, the Sabres need goal scorers, and though he isn’t as potent of one as before, Perry could still be that guy for them. Not to mention he would add grit and toughness.
Low risk, high reward potential
Seeing as he was just bought out, Perry isn’t in a position this summer to ask for a big contract, and Botterill could use that to his advantage. Since the Sabres have almost $20 million in available cap space this season, offering Perry one year for $2 million or so isn’t a terrible idea. If it doesn’t work out, the team won’t be stuck because of it, and if it does work out, it will have acquired a solid piece for a very low price.
Veteran presence & leadership
After the 2017-18 season ended, Botterill stated that the Sabres have a losing culture. The same can still be said a year later. It’s an accepted truth in sports that losing breeds losing, and the Sabres have been doing just that for quite some time. Krueger is tasked with trying to change this, and for it to happen Botterill will have to do what he didn’t with Krueger’s predecessor Phil Housley: give him the right players.
As previously mentioned, Buffalo has quite a few players that need to be eighty-sixed this summer, with Marco Scandella, Vladimir Sobotka and Johan Larsson easily at the top of this list. Though buyout might be the only way we see Suckdella or Sobotka leave town, it doesn’t change the fact that it simply needs to happen. The Sabres have been weighed down for far too long by players that didn’t live up to the high expectations they were brought in with. Everyone rightfully hates on Tim Murray for causing this but Botterill is just as guilty.
It’s plain and simple, to change the aura of the Buffalo Sabres, better players will have to be brought in. Perry isn’t the player he used to be and in his mid-thirties, he wouldn’t factor into Buffalo’s long-term plans either way you sliced it. But there’s no denying that he knows what it’s like to be part of a winning culture. No player on the Sabres right now can say that they have. Players like Eichel, Reinhart, Rasmus Ristolainen and Jake McCabe have only known the beleaguering effect of constant mediocrity, and it’s not like Carolina was a contender when Skinner was there.
Anaheim drafted Perry in 2003 and the team achieved its peak when he arrived, winning the Stanley Cup his sophomore season. Perry was able to develop and mature under the tutelage of legends like Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger and Teemu Selanne and the effects were quite obvious. Young Sabres Casey Mittelstadt, Tage Thompson and Rasmus Dahlin would benefit considerably from the presence of a seasoned veteran that has won just about all there is to in hockey world.
Don’t get me wrong, I know I’m lionizing Perry pretty considerably here. One guy can obviously not do it all (see Connor McDavid) and I’m not saying Buffalo will be a contender if it signs a 34-year-old winger that has put up a combined 59 points in that last two seasons. Signing him wouldn’t change much, but at the very least, it would help to make a difference in the locker room. And Buffalo needs that more than anything right now.
So what do you think, SportsChillers? Yea or nay on this one? As always, let me know what you think at my updated Twitter, @MorrisMathews24.