Buffalo Sabres: Ralph Krueger and staff right to reject pay reductions

Buffalo Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger. (Photo by JONATHAN NACKSTRAND / AFP) (Photo by JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images)
Buffalo Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger. (Photo by JONATHAN NACKSTRAND / AFP) (Photo by JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images) /

Buffalo Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger and his staff reportedly rejected a second round of pay reductions and it’s hard to argue with their reasoning.

As COVID-19 continues to impact the financial stability of the NHL, the majority of clubs have taken steps to mitigate their losses. This includes the Buffalo Sabres, although it now appears certain personnel have essentially said enough is enough.

As reported by Frank Seravalli of TSN, the Sabres asked head coach Ralph Krueger and his staff to take a 25 percent reduction in salary. However, Krueger and company became the first coaching staff to reject such a proposal.

At first, this rejection might be perceived as a selfish decision when considering the economic situation both in the NHL and in general around Canada and the world. However, Krueger and his coaching staff had a good reason for turning down the Sabres’ request.

As per Zach Leach of Pro Hockey Rumors, the decision stems from the coaching staff originally agreeing to a 20 percent pay cut for the period between April 1 and July 13. At the time, they were on board with the move, believing it would help the club and other personnel.

Instead, the Sabres proceeded to fire 22 members of staff in one day during June, in a move which was described as the worst bloodletting in NHL history. Among those let go, included general manager Jason Botterill and Rochester Americans’ head coach Chris Taylor.

The decision to fire Taylor was particularly surprising. He had led the Amerks to two consecutive playoff berths and had them in position for a third when the AHL season was suspended and then ultimately cancelled.

In addition, the manner in which Taylor was let go was tough to accept. He was given no explanation in a phone call from new GM Kevyn Adams, which reportedly lasted then than a minute.

With this in mind, in makes more sense why Krueger and his coaching staff would be unwilling to accept a second pay reduction. Why sacrifice more money, when the previous cuts didn’t stop the Sabres firing so many people?

As per Leach, the coaching staff likely also factored in that there were no more hockey jobs left to be cut. Regardless, this latest news only continues what has been an ongoing nightmare for the Sabres and their fans during the last decade.

As a result of Krueger and the coaching staff refusing to take a second pay cut, the Sabres will have to find other ways to save money. This will apparently include enforcing an internal salary cap.

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As things stand, the NHL has frozen the salary cap at $81.5 million for at least next season as part of the new CBA, and in all likelihood longer. In fact, some projections indicate it might take the league as long as six years to recover from the financial fallout of COVID-19.

Seravalli reports that the Sabres are considering setting their internal spending in the low $70 million range, effectively $10 million under the salary cap. In theory this might not seem too bad for the club, which has a current cap hit for the 2020-21 season at just under $48.3 million.

On further inspection however, you get a better indication of how challenging this internal salary cap might be for the Sabres. As things stand, they only have 10 players under contract for next season.

This leads to any number of questions, as the Sabres attempt to put together a competitive roster which can challenge in 2020-21. For example, could the likes of Jack Eichel and Jeff Skinner be asked to restructure their contracts for the greater good?

If so, would the players be willing to help? It’s going to be an extremely interesting offseason but make no mistake about it, the Pegulas face a significant challenge to improve the morale and turn around the fortunes of their beleaguered franchise.

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What do you make of Krueger’s decision to reject a second pay cut? Do you agree with him and his coaching staff, or side with the Buffalo Sabres? Let us know in the comments section below.