The 2013 season is winding down, and the Buffalo Sabres will, likely, be on the outside of the playoffs looking in for the second straight season. It means that it’s time for the ever-fun predictions for next season.
There is no denying that the team will look different next year, but just how different will it look? That’s what this is for. Starting with centers, we will go position by position predicting what the 2013-2014 Buffalo Sabres roster will look like.
Who stays? Who Goes? Read and leave your thoughts on the centers in the comment section below on who your centers will be.
Cody Hodgson is a restricted free agent after this season and will likely demand a pretty nice pay raise. To clear up some space to make sure the team remains under the salary cap, Ennis could/will be one of the casualties. His trade value is high, and with one year remaining before he hits restricted free agent status again, Buffalo could easily find a partner looking for a playmaking center; they could get a very nice return for the 23 year old.
He was recently moved back to the outside due to lack of production up the middle, but that move won’t be enough to keep him in Buffalo.
He’s being classified as a center because that is where he spent a majority of the season playing. He will be 36 in June, and will have little to no use for a team entering a full rebuild.
This one is as close to a given as there is. Hodgson may be a restricted free agent after this season concludes, but he is expected to get a 3-4 year contract with the team by the time July 1st comes around. He is, and expected to be for the foreseeable future, the team’s number one center. Even as a liability in the defensive zone, Hodgson has shown flashes of brilliance and the ability of being the lead pivot man for this team. He’s also a pretty good scorer, having 30 points in 40 games for Buffalo which is second on the team behind Thomas Vanek. At 23 years old, he is still growing into that role, but still has time to develop.
Grigorenko’s first season as a pro has been pretty tumultuous. He started with the Sabres; was a healthy scratch multiple times; was sent back down to Quebec of the QMJHL; then recalled once again on Tuesday morning only to be scratched again. The expectation is that he will eventually be sent to Rochester to get playing time and experience with the Americans for their playoff run.
Next season will be a clean slate and he will be the team’s number two center behind Hodgson. He has shown glimmers of the potential that everyone has seen from him in the past, and with more playing time, that potential will be fully realized.
This one was a bit of a surprise during the season. Porter was called up mid-season to provide depth up the middle, and ended up being more than just a typical call up. The former Hobey Baker Award winner was signed to a two-year contract last summer, and started the year in Rochester and led the Americans in points during his tenure there.
Since his call up to Buffalo in February, Porter has provided stability up the middle on the 3rd and 4th lines for the Sabres. He was even, at times, part of the most productive and consistent line on the ice for Buffalo. His play as a two-way, primarily defensive, center has earned him a shot to start next season with the big club.
Many will look at this and say, “He’s not a center, are you nuts.” However, Foligno has experience in the middle having played center in junior hockey with Sudbury. And since he was moved to center a few games ago by Interim Head Coach Ron Rolston, Foligno has shown the strength and ability to be a center in the NHL. He is 64% in the circle this season, and is 78% since being put in the circle full time.
He has the body size and the skill to be a Paul Gaustad-like center for the Sabres who can come in and win a faceoff when needed. It’s only a small sample size, but it’s best to see where this experiment goes for a full season that will likely not be full of expectations.