Brian Campbell has told the Sabres he will not negotiate a new contract until after the season is over.
News that Brian Campbell has effectively put a halt to any negotiations with the Buffalo Sabres until after this season is nothing but bad news for a team that one calendar year ago looked like a Stanley Cup contender.
First it was Chris Drury and Daniel Briere. Next could be Campbell. And if that happens, how much do you think goalie Ryan Miller will want to stick around when he becomes an unrestricted free agent after next season?
Whether the Sabres are willing to admit it or not, things are unraveling in a big way for them and if they don’t do something about it soon by, say, keeping a decent player or two around long-term, then their days of selling out the Alphabet Arena will end in a hurry.
Of course, the new collective bargaining agreement was supposed to prevent all this from happening, wasn’t it? Weren’t small-market teams supposed to be able to keep their star players?
Of course, when you have chances to sign the likes of Drury and Briere and you let them slip through your fingers by dithering on their deals, well, no CBA in the world is going to protect you from that.
Which is exactly why the Sabres have to get Campbell to change his stance and negotiate with him now. This malarkey about it being a distraction that will somehow prevent Campbell from playing to the best of his abilities is pure nonsense. Campbell has developed into an elite defenseman in this league – Canadian Olympic team in 2010, you heard it here first – and he didn’t do it by not being mentally tough and able to put distractions aside.
I’m more inclined to think Campbell is seeing dollar signs, and the Sabres should start coming up with them in an effort to keep him. If they lose another elite player over money, it will just continue the drain of players out of Buffalo and deter other free agents from signing there.
Unless, of course, Campbell sees the Sabres as a moribund franchise and, regardless of money, wants to play in a city where he feels he has a legitimate chance to win the Stanley Cup. If that’s the case, there’s nothing the Sabres can do about it.
And there’ll be nothing they can do but wave goodbye to Miller after next season.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.