BUFFALO – It didn’t take Sabres fans long to experience some of that suffering general manager Darcy Regier warned could lie ahead.
As free agency opened Friday afternoon and teams began piling up assets, the rebuilding Sabres remained quiet most of the day.
Finally, at about 9:30 p.m., TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported the Sabres had signed AHL defenseman Drew Bagnall to a two-year, two-way contract.
That depth move probably won’t make the team’s anxious fan base stop fretting.
Remember, though, Regier has said the Sabres would look for value free agents to support the team’s younger core group. Many of those players are still available.
Almost every notable free agent was gobbled up Friday. NHL clubs spent in excess of $400 million on more than 50 players during the first day.
What do starting goalie Ryan Miller and slick winger Thomas Vanek, two dangling stars the Sabres claim they might want to keep, think about the inaction?
Some of the Sabres’ division rivals – don’t forget, the Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning are joining the old Northeast teams next season – had busy, even franchise-altering days.
Right now, it’s hard to argue some of them haven’t improved dramatically.
In a stunner, iconic Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson bolted the Senators after 17 years for a one-year contract with Detroit potentially worth $5.5 million. A chance to win the Stanley Cup lured the Swedish winger to the Motor City.
“That’s my dream,” Alfredsson, who has 42 goals and 84 points in 89 games against the Sabres since 1995-96, told reporters.
Detroit also inked ex-Florida center Stephen Weiss – a regular 20-goal, 50-point producer – to a five-year, $24.5 million deal.
The Senators, while clearly shaken up by Alfredsson’s shocking departure, completed the day’s biggest trade, acquiring slick Anaheim winger Bobby Ryan for a first-round draft pick and two prospects.
Ottawa also signed former Sabres winger Clarke MacArthur, late of the Toronto Maple Leafs, to a two-year, $6.5 million deal.
Meanwhile, the Leafs’ seven-year, $36.75 million contract lured former 30-goal winger David Clarkson, one of the best free agents available, from New Jersey. The Leafs also signed former Sabres defenseman T.J. Brennan, who wasn’t tendered a contract by Nashville. The Sabres dished Brennan to Florida for a fifth-round pick in March.
While the Boston Bruins lost winger Nathan Horton and backup goalie Anton Khudobin, they landed 36-year-old star winger Jarome Iginla, who had picked Pittsburgh over them before April’s trade deadline, to a one-year deal potentially worth $6 million. Boston also acquired 30-goal winger Loui Eriksson from Dallas on Thursday for the enigmatic Tyler Seguin.
Tampa Bay raised some eyebrows by signing ex-Detroit winger Valtteri Filppula to a five-year, $25 million deal.
A day after signing former Sabres co-captain Daniel Briere, the Montreal Canadiens acquired hulking tough guy George Parros from Florida from a prospect and a draft pick.
With Philadelphia bringing back goalie Ray Emery and the New York Islanders re-signing Evgeni Nabokov, the market for Miller shrunk, too.
As for Bagnall, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound 29-year-old is likely ticketed for Rochester. He played two games with Minnesota in 2010-11 and recently served as the AHL Houston Aeros’ captain.
Bagnall, who played collegiately at St. Lawrence, has six goals, 46 points and 676 penalty minutes in 382 AHL games. Dallas originally drafted him 195th overall in 2003.
According to McKenzie, Bagnall receives $275,000 in the minors and $555,000 in the NHL.
The Sabres also lost two AHL players.
Winger Mark Mancari, whose 22 goals and 61 points topped Rochester last season, signed with the St. Louis. Meanwhile, defenseman Alex Biega, who likely lost his first NHL promotion when the Sabres inked Chad Ruhwedel in April, signed with Vancouver.
Update: The Sabres announced this morning they’ve re-signed defenseman Alexander Sulzer to a one-year deal. Sulzer played 17 games last season before undergoing ACL surgery.