Earlier this week, I alluded to the fact that the Sabres are all banged up like they were last May. Since my post the other day, they've also lost Ales Kotalik for approximately 6 weeks with a knee injury.
The list of injuries is as follows:
- Tim Connolly... Concussion, knee -- indefinite
- Maxim Afinogenov... Wrist -- 6 weeks +
- Paul Gaustad... Ankle -- remainder of season
- Ales Kotalik... Knee -- 6 weeks
- Jiri Nivotny... Ankle -- indefinite
- Jaro Spacek... Hand -- 2 weeks +
The fact that Buffalo is severely banged up is of enough concern. Unfortunately, they don't have any cap room to go rent players. With the exception of Paul Gaustad, all players are scheduled to make a return before the end of the regular season. This means that they won't be able to get any salary exemption on those injuries. They started the season flush against the cap, and they're still there. The only thing they can do trade-wise is to make dollar-for-dollar trades. They won't be able to go the traditional "rent a player" mode. Instead, they'll have to trade quality for quantity.
Don't take my word for it. Kevin BFLOBLOG has much more insight on the Sabres situation, and writes about it here.
That's just the beginning of their concerns. According to Matt over at Sabre Rattling, the Sabres will have to do something immediately. As part of their agreement with the Rochester Americans, the Sabres have to provide 10 players to the AHL squad. If the number of Amerks with Sabres contracts falls below 10 for two games or more, the Sabres must fix it. This means the Sabres will have to send some guys back down. This also means that they will have to make some dollar-for-dollar trades. Conditional picks can't figure in because they have no money to spend. One popular rumor is Marty Biron to the Coyotes for Kevyn Adams plus spare parts. Not a bad deal, but they will have to do it instantly. The Amerks have had only 9 "Sabres" players for two consecutive games. Now that Mike Ryan has been called up, that number is eight. Buffalo must get that number to 10 before Wednesday.
Now... The Sabres are a first place team, and they've distanced themselves enough from the Northeast Division that they're almost guaranteed a first place finish and a top three seed in the playoffs. If they can limp through the remainder of the regular season on a makeshift roster and if everyone can return from injury without setbacks, they should be fine. They'll be more than fine. If, however, things don't go that smoothly, then their struggles with the salary cap over the summer will be the main culprit.