Case #19: The Sabres might want to resign Tim Connolly

Most Sabres fans probably can’t imagine there’s an argument here.

Without a doubt, Tim Connolly is the most maligned player on the roster right now. Many fans don’t like him. Many fans feel he’s not worth a dime. Many fans don’t see why Connolly would want to come back.

Since the trade deadline, when acquiring former junior teammate Brad Boyes was the only move the Sabres made, Tim has been much better, racking up four goals and 11 points in those 16 games. The non-movement of Connolly was not well-received by much of Sabres nation, but Tim was happy about staying.

“That’s what I’ve always wanted to do: Stay in Buffalo and try to have an opportunity to win a Cup here,” he said. “First and foremost, we’ve got to try to make the playoffs. That’s our main goal. The addition of Boyes will help us down the stretch.”

Of late, it’s been Connolly’s line that has been the Sabres’ top unit. That line, featuring Tim at center, flanked by Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville is the closest the Sabres have gotten to a true #1 line this season. At times, it has looked dominant. Each of the three has six points in the last seven games.

Now, it’s one thing to say it’s time for Tim Connolly and the Sabres to part ways, time to move on, because he doesn’t really fit in anywhere. But say that top line sticks together, and looks good in the playoffs. Does that make the Sabres think twice about letting him go?

Let’s accept what we know: Tim Connolly is not a centerpiece. He is not a player you build around, he’s a guy who will make a good team better. And his $4.5 million salary seems absurd to many Sabres fans. Unfortunately for many fans who think he’s not worth that, there’s some unfortunate news to accept: Connolly’s contract isn’t that crazy.

These are the comparables across the NHL that can gauge what Tim’s value truly is.

Tim Connolly David Legwand Antoine Vermette Nik Antropov
Age 29 30 28 31
2010-11 63GP 12G-25A-37P 60GP 17G-24A-41P 78GP 19G-27A-46P 71GP 15G-22A-37P
ST TOI (PP/PK) 2:53 PP/1:42 SH 1:32 PP/2:06 SH 2:57 PP/1:25 SH 2:37 PP/0:00 SH
Career best 73GP 17G-48A-65P 78GP 27G-36A-63P 82GP 27G-38A-65P 76GP 24G-43A-67P
Playoffs (career) 30GP 5G-16A-21P 25GP 4G-9A-13P 42GP 4G-4A-8P 35GP 4G-4A-8P
Cap number $4,500,000 $4,500,000 $3,750,000 $4,062,500

There are other statistically similiar players like Matt Cullen and Brendan Morrison, but they were left out due to age. All tended to fall between $3.5-$4.5 million. For the most part, Connolly is near the top of the group for how he’s relied upon in key situations.

I don’t see Buffalo resigning Connolly at his current rate, simply because the fan distaste for him isn’t going to make it a popular move. I don’t know if Connolly will even fetch that on the open market, depending how the salary cap fluctuates for next season. But if Connolly is willing to come back at a slight discount? It has to be considered.

His value to the team is evidenced by the situations he’s used. Always on the #1 powerplay unit. One of the team’s top penalty killers. The first option to kill a two-man disadvantage. Those are crucial points in a game. If the coaches feel he’s capable of filling in at those times, they’d have to think highly of what he brings to the table.

Is that worth a one or two year deal at around $4 million a season? I tend to think so. Based on how the Sabres will need to appropriate their cap space over the next two years to UFA’s and guys coming off of entry level deals, there’s no way they can give Connolly more than that. But as of now, will there be any better options? Look at the centers available this summer. Not exactly a group that makes you salivate.

Sure, if the Sabres are going to go out and grab Brad Richards on July 1, maybe they don’t have space for Connolly. Raises due to restricted free agents Drew Stafford, Nathan Gerbe and Andrej Sekera could lead to issues.

But short of that, there might be good reason to keep #19 in Buffalo for at least another season.

Posted on April 2, 2011, in Buffalo and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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