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Head Games

I apologize if this blog has seemed more Sabres orientated lately than Canes, but Buffalo is imploding and it's fascinating to watch! Today, Oiler's general manager Kevin Lowe began a game of chess with the other general managers of the league when he offered Thomas Vanek a 50 million dollar, 7 year contract which he knew the Sabres would have to match. After losing both Briere and Drury this week to free agency, there was no way that Regier would allow Vanek to be swept away as well and he made this known a couple of days ago to the entire hockey world in a newspaper interview. Disregarding the public announcement, Lowe submitted the offer sheet anyway. Why would he do that, some of you may be wondering? The Oilers have had trouble signing players and making trades of late. This could be a warning shot across the bow to other general managers that if they won't consider trading their restricted free agents to the Oilers, then he will start submitting offer sheets to them instead. That could end up getting expensive for everyone! A "friendly" game of chicken has just been cranked up a few notches and the Sabres were caught in the cross fire, although they only have themselves to blame.

If Buffalo had signed Vanek before July 1st, they wouldn't have had to worry about matching this over-priced offer. But because of more bungling, Vanek was sitting there unsigned and vulnerable, available for any team to throw an offer sheet his way. The Sabres reportedly lowballed Vanek with offers in the 3 to 4 million dollar per year range instead of offering a more reasonable range of 4-5 million per year which is what Eric Staal and Jason Spezza signed for previously. Does this scenario sound familiar? I'm sure it does to Chris Drury and Danny Briere! Now Buffalo gets to over-pay to the tune of an average of 7 million per year. All I've got to say is that it couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of fellows!

Of course this same situation could have happened to the Canes if they had left their restricted free agents unsigned after July 1st. But Rutherford didn't allow that. All the Hurricanes RFA's were signed on time the last 2 years, including Staal and Williams. Another key RFA, Cam Ward was signed earlier this summer. Here's a lesson to Buffalo management. Get your contracts negotiated and completed on time, and this doesn't happen! Who are some other notable restricted free agents still available? Zach Parise, Dustin Penner, and Michael Ryder are all still on the hot seat. Will Lowe make an offer to one of them as well? I'm sure the head games will continue and we'll be watching!

I'll be leaving for home within the next couple of days and things should soon get back to normal on the blog. Next week we'll look at a few of the crazy contract amounts that some players received and predict which teams will get burned. TGIF!