The Bisons’ final home game is tonight and the Sabres are two weeks away from the start of training camp. Crazy. You may be fretting over watching Jeff Tuel or Matt Leinart play some Fraud Football tonight. I’m thinking hockey.
• The New Jersey Devils signed Adam Henrique to a six-year, $24-million contract Monday and that’s bad news for the Sabres when it comes to unsigned restricted free agent Cody Hodgson.
The Sabres’ likely No. 1 center is looking for a long-term, big-money deal at a time when the club would clearly prefer giving him a “bridge” contract to follow up his entry-level pact. Think the two-year, $5.6 million deal that Tyler Ennis signed in 2012.
Hodgson, Henrique, Nazem Kadri of Toronto and Derek Stepan of the New York Rangers were all in a similar boat, with their teams waiting it out and seemingly not wanting to offer the big money. Henrique may have set the kind of market price the Sabres want to go nowhere near.
Nor should they. Henrique was a Calder Trophy finalist in a year when his team went to the 2012 Stanley Cup final — and he became the first rookie ever to score two series-clinching overtime goals. Hodgson has yet to show he’s anywhere near that kind of player, and his defensive-zone metrics were among the worst in the NHL last year.
Hodgson’s agent is Ritch Winter, who has a history of contentiousness with the Sabres dating back to his days as Dominik Hasek’s representative. Winter and Darcy Regier have spent the summer talking with no success.
His agent will say otherwise, but Hodgson doesn’t have much leverage here based on past performance. He should take the bridge deal, get in camp and prove his worth so that in two years he can take his real kick at the free agent can.
• Can’t blame the Sabres for pumping up their season-ticket count to 16,000. First of all, if you have customers willing to make long-term, big-dollar commitments, you should go for it. Secondly, it cuts into the challenge of filling the building with single-game sales that would have needed to be in the 4,000 range.
• One thing that came out of the team’s recent announcement of its variable pricing structure is that the magic $30 mark has been broken. To wit, the cheapest window-price ticket for the nine Value games in the farthest 300 Level seats is now $31. Five years ago, it was $22.
But for the 10 bronze games, the bottom seat is $39. And for the other 22, it’s no lower than $53. That’s steep.
• Opened my annual Hockey News yearbook to find out they’re picking the St. Louis Blues to win the Stanley Cup. Oooooooook. Nice team. One playoff series win the last 10 years. Let’s check out that choice in June. And don’t talk to me about the 2012 Kings coming out of nowhere. The Blues aren’t the Kings.
• Team Canada had its Olympic orientation camp in Calgary this week and players stayed off skates due to insurance reasons, with Detroit coach Mike Babcock running ball-hockey walkthroughs. Seriously. After going all the way to Sochi in February, and again disrupting the NHL schedule for nearly three weeks, can we really see the NHL going to Korea in 2018?
• While Team USA has such an embarrassment of riches in net that 2010 hero Ryan Miller may be hard-pressed to even make the squad, there’s plenty of teeth-gnashing across the border over who will play goal for Canada. Carey Price, Corey Crawford, Mike Smith, Roberto Luongo and Brayden Holtby don’t engender the same confidence as, say, Ken Dryden, Tony Esposito, Grant Fuhr, Patrick Roy or Martin Brodeur.
• Anybody got it down pat yet who’s in the Metropolitan Division? What the heck is a Metropolitan Division? And if it’s supposed to be bright lights/big cities, how the heck did Raleigh, N.C., end up in it?