I distinctly remember the feeling of July 1, 2007. The rage of Sabre fans overflowing as they watched Daniel Briere and Chris Drury flee as free agents to the Flyers and Rangers after back-to-back trips to the conference finals.
Others would follow through the years with the financial mandate from then owner Tom Golisano being that management had to at least "break even" when making hockey decisions.
Oh how times have changed.
Yes indeed July 1st has come and gone and has done much to reinforce new owner Terry Pegula's words that things will be different moving forward.
Instead of landing the so called big fish in Brad Richards, the Sabres in effect controlled their own destiny in signing Flyer forward Ville Leino to a six-year $27-million dollar deal. They contend he will fill a much needed role at the center position despite the fact he was a winger in Philadelphia. Leino's strength in his versatility and I think he'll do much as a top six forward in helping to create far more favorable match-ups for Buffalo's other forwards throughout the line-up.
What's even more encouraging is the signing comes on the heels of two big acquisitions on defense. Those of course being the trade for Calgary's Robyn Regehr at the draft, and the signing of Vancouver's Christian Ehrhoff to a 10-year $40-million contract after trading for his negotiating rights.
During Buffalo's seven game opening round playoff loss to the Flyers, they were often overwhelmed defensively against a strong group of Philadelphia forwards, Leino among them. That shouldn't be the case moving forward.
As Friday turns to Saturday, the Sabres actually find themselves over the salary cap. They will have to make cuts to get under it by the start of the season. Critics have accused Buffalo of overpaying - and I think they're right to an extent... that's what happens on July 1.
But the fact of the matter is that Buffalo has gone from a small market team that's historically struggled to compete financially, to a team that's helped to set the market.
Pegula has leveled the playing field.