UFA Options: Buffalo Sabres


UFA Options is a continuing series that gives a brief run-down of the unrestricted free agent market this summer, team-by-team. Our next team for consideration is the Buffalo Sabres.

The Buffalo Sabres have some interesting decisions facing them this summer; they have eight significant free agents, including enigmatic forward Maxim Afinogenov, rental players Dominic Moore and Mikael Tellqvist, and quality defenseman Jaroslav Spacek. Let’s take a look.


  • Age is calculated based on how old the player will be during the 2009-10 season.
  • QualComp/QualTeam are the Quality of Competition/Teammates rankings from Behind the Net; the number appearing is each player’s ranking by position (forward/defense) on his own team.
  • Def/Off Faceoffs is a comparison of the total number of shifts starting in the defensive and offensive zones, courtesy of Vic Ferrari’s Time On Ice. A positive number indicates starting more in the defensive zone, a negative number the opposite.
  • All advanced statistics are courtesy of Behind the Net.

Maxim Afinogenov

Vital Stats: 30 years old, 6’, 191lbs
2008-09 Cap Hit: 3,333,333 US$
2008-09 Basic Stats: 48GP – 6G – 14A – 20PTS, -7
2008-09 Contextual: 14th QualComp, 10th QualTeam, -10 Def/Off Faceoffs
2008-09 Advanced Stats: +5.8 Corsi/60, 1.63 EVPTS/60, 2.39 GFON/60, 2.89 GAON/60

The word “enigma” is tossed around an awful lot when it comes to streaky, highly talented Russian forwards. Maxim Afinogenov fits the mold exactly; he’s been a point per game player twice since the lockout, but over the past two seasons he’s been used sparingly by Lindy Ruff and hasn’t excelled when used. Somebody will take a chance on him, but it’s going to be a gamble and he’s certainly going to be taking a steep pay cut.

Dominic Moore

Vital Stats: 29 years old, 6’, 188lbs
2008-09 Cap Hit: 900,000 US$
2008-09 Basic Stats: 81GP – 13G – 32A – 45PTS, -2
2008-09 Contextual: 9th QualComp, 2nd QualTeam, -50 Def/Off Faceoffs
2008-09 Advanced Stats: +6.2 Corsi/60, 2.09 EVPTS/60, 3.23 GFON/60, 3.11 GAON/60

Faceoff ace Dominic Moore plays a versatile game with a physical dimension, but his sudden offensive outburst surprised everyone. Moore’s been an NHL player since the lockout, recording 18, 17 and 17 points over the previous three seasons before jumping to 45 this season. He’s looking for a big raise from the 900,000 dollars he earned this past season, but this is definitely a buyer beware scenario. He’s been a defensive specialist in years past and was frequently mentioned in that capacity this season, but it seems clear that his role was changed; he was put in offensive positions all season long.

Mathieu Darche

Vital Stats: 32 years old, 6’1”, 220lbs
2008-09 Cap Hit: 575,000 US$
2008-09 Basic Stats: 80GP – 31G – 35A – 66PTS, +1 (AHL)
2008-09 Contextual: N/A
2008-09 Advanced Stats: N/A

Only one year removed from a full NHL season in Tampa Bay, Darche had a very decent season in the AHL and has scored well whenever he’s sent there. He’s got decent size and offensive acumen, but his defensive play could be better and he’s not a great skater. He’s probably not going to climb beyond the fourth line at this point.

Andrew Peters

Vital Stats: 29 years old, 6’4”, 247lbs
2008-09 Cap Hit: 525,000 US$
2008-09 Basic Stats: 28GP – 0G – 1A – 1PTS, -1
2008-09 Contextual: 11th QualComp, 3rd QualTeam, +EV Def/Off Faceoffs
2008-09 Advanced Stats: -9.6 Corsi/60, 0.54 EVPTS/60, 0.54 GFON/60, 1.61 GAON/60

Andrew Peters is an amazingly consistent player. Over his five season NHL career, he’s finished with between 0 and 2 points, and his plus minus has been between -1 and -4 every year. He’s a reserve player who fills the enforcer role but doesn’t add much else to the roster.

Matt Ellis

Vital Stats: 28 years old, 6’, 207lbs
2008-09 Cap Hit: 475,000 US$
2008-09 Basic Stats: 45GP – 7G – 5A – 12PTS, +4
2008-09 Contextual: 13th QualComp, 5th QualTeam, +9 Def/Off Faceoffs
2008-09 Advanced Stats: -9.1 Corsi/60, 1.82 EVPTS/60, 1.99 GFON/60, 1.32 GAON/60

A very decent fourth line option – in fact, “decent” is the word for him – Ellis has decent size, decent two-way ability, and decent offensive instincts. Nothing to get excited about here; he is likely just a useful reserve player.

Jaroslav Spacek

Vital Stats: 36 years old, 5’11”, 206lbs
2008-09 Cap Hit: 3,333,333 US$
2008-09 Basic Stats: 80GP – 8G – 37A – 45PTS, +2
2008-09 Contextual: 3rd QualComp, 8th QualTeam, -23 Def/Off Faceoffs
2008-09 Advanced Stats: +7.8 Corsi/60, 1.06 EVPTS/60, 2.95 GFON/60, 2.66 GAON/60

The smart money says that Spacek re-signs with the Sabres; he’s expressed a willingness to stay, and the team certainly needs him. He’s a puck-moving top-four defenseman who plays an intelligent game, although he’s often underrated because of his diminutive size. Any team looking for more mobility on their back end should be interested in Spacek.

Teppo Numminen

Vital Stats: 41 years old, 6’2”, 197lbs
2008-09 Cap Hit: 1,850,000 US$
2008-09 Basic Stats: 57GP – 2G – 15A – 17PTS, -4
2008-09 Contextual: 7th QualComp, 6th QualTeam, +13 Def/Off Faceoffs
2008-09 Advanced Stats: -3.2 Corsi/60, 0.77 EVPTS/60, 2.24 GFON/60, 2.55 GAON/60

Teppo Numminen hasn’t decided yet whether he wishes to retire or not; he will be 41 next season, and after more than 1300 NHL games he is slowing down. He holds the NHL record for the most games by a European-developed player, but now is a bottom-pairing defenseman.

Mikael Tellqvist

Vital Stats: 30 years old, 6’0”, 189lbs
2008-09 Cap Hit: 800,000 US$
2008-09 Basic Stats: 21GP, 9W – 6L – 1OTL, 2.74GAA, 0.912SV%, 0 SO

Mikael Tellqvist has always been a bit of a question mark at the NHL level. He put up good numbers in the AHL, but has had two good seasons and two bad seasons since the lockout. On the plus side of things, his two good seasons have been the last two, so it’s entirely possible that he’s found his comfort zone. If he can maintain his current level of play he’s a very respectable backup goaltender. Still, if I were to bet on a career backup/1B goaltender taking a run at a starting job next season (in the right situation), I could do worse than to bet on Tellqvist.

  • lj

    One thing to be careful of when taking the info from behindthenet, is that a guy like Dominic Moore played most of the season with the Leafs.

    For example, his QUALCOMP of -0.00 may be 9th among the Sabres' players, it's 4th on the Maple Leafs. He would've been facing the 2nd toughest minutes after the Kulemin-Stajan-Blake line.

    Ditto for the faceoff zone stuff. It only uses player numbers, so if you used the whole season for Buffalo and looked at #17, it would also show any games played by MA Gragnani (though I'm not sure if he played too many games having only been on the roster 9 days).

  • lj

    Isn't Moore exactly what we need right now?? A mid-age centerman with a physical game that can win alot of faceoffs and play on the pk. That right there would take some load off of Horc. That said, with his offensive output this season his agent will be looking for 3 or 4 million a year, and if history repeats itself someone will pay him way too much. If the contract is reasonable I say pick this guy up.

  • lj

    @ misfit:

    Moore's face-off numbers are from both Toronto and Buffalo, but you're right about the QualComp. On the other hand, looking at how Toronto rolled their lines it seems to me that Wilson was pretty good at evening the competition among his lines; from 1st to 8th/9th is only a difference of .003 so I don't think it's a stretch to say that Moore was facing varied top-nine competition but wasn't consistently drawing tough minutes.

  • lj

    @Jonathan Willis:

    You're right, it's probably not much of a difference, I just figured since you were listing them as a rank in relation to the rest of the roster, to take into account where he ranked on his old team.

    I guess my main issue is that I don't really know what to make of the QUALCOMP/TEAM stats yet from team to team. I think they make for good comparison among players on the same team (since they're all playing against the same teams each night), which is why I like the way you're doing it in this series, but with the schedule the way it is, it's tough to put a lot of stock in the number on its own.

    As for my personal thoughts on Moore, I'm pretty much in the same boat as you (an allarming trend I've noticed over the last year). He'd be a good option, but he's far from my first choice. He definately fits the type of player this team needs.

  • lj

    @ Jonathan Willis:
    I glanced down the list of UFA centers. Not that impressive… Aside from Moore who do you think is an ideal fit considering age, skill set, and likely cost?

  • lj

    @ Jonathan Willis:
    To clarify:

    I checked the league wide list for a big, physical, late 20s early 30s, centerman that could take draws and play in a shutdown role…and wasn't that impressed. It's not like these guys grow on trees… I'm figuring Tambellini will have to trade for one. From your earlier response to misfit it sounded like you had someguys in mind. Please do tell.

  • lj

    misfit wrote:

    I’m pretty much in the same boat as you (an allarming trend I’ve noticed over the last year).

    I've noticed it too – sort of strange, but this way if I'm crazy at least I'm not alone.

  • lj

    @ Chris:

    I'm actually still in the process of going through them all (I write this "UFA Options" bit for my benefit as much as for anybody else), but Pahlsson would probably be my first choice. Manny Malhotra and Radek Bonk are probably in the discussion too.

    Once I'm done going through every team I'll write an Oilers-specific article where I identify the guys I'd be going after if I were GM.

  • lj

    For a pay cut I'd give Afinogenov a chance, shit why not. On Oiler Ice he might regain his old scoring ways. He's only 30, throw him out with Hemmer or Cogs and let em fly.

  • lj

    Oilersordeath wrote:

    For a pay cut I’d give Afinogenov a chance, shit why not. On Oiler Ice he might regain his old scoring ways. He’s only 30, throw him out with Hemmer or Cogs and let em fly.

    Umm…no. On "Oilers ice"?? You do know the "Oilers ice" isn't what it used to be, right. Like not even in the top 5-10 in the league. And the only teams that should even consider Afinogenov – Pitt & Atl. Other than that, I'd bet he's playing in Russia.

  • lj

    @ RossCreek:
    I agree about Afinogenov. The Oilers already have too many question marks in the top 6, they dont need another one. Either go after a proven UFA or go the trade route. Between O'Sullivan, Nilsson, Gagner, Cogliano, Kotalik, Penner, and the on-again-off-again Horcoff there are too many potentially unproductive players in the mix.