The Buffalo Sabres have a lot to address this offseason from potential UFAs walking out the door and major weaknesses from the 2022-23 season.
One of the Sabres strengths this past season had to be scoring, with 293 goals, 197 of them being scored at 5v5 (3rd in the league in both stats). On the other hand, they conceded 3.62 goals per match (7th worst in the league), 204 goals conceded was at 5v5 (of 297 in total), which ranked Sabres as 5th worst. They let 2710 shots on their goal and had the 5th worst penalty kill with 73.01%. They also had one of the worst goaltending with a .890 save percentage.
Although the offensive is working almost perfectly with massive room for improvement at defense, the tricky thing is that Sabres have all defensemen locked and need some room to sign forwards. Don’t get me wrong; their defense will be better; their defensemen have an average age of 24.0, with the oldest man having 29 years.
UFAs on the Buffalo Sabres
Kyle Okposo – 35, RW, previously $6,000,000
The Captain’s 42 million contract is expiring this summer. Okposo is believed to be satisfied in Buffalo, but he also may want to win a Cup, and he probably won’t do it with Sabres as he is 35 already, and they aren’t there yet. He averaged 0.37 points per game and won’t get any better. As it stands, I don’t see any of the contenders being able to give Okposo as much money as Buffalo can, so at the end of the day, I can see him staying with Sabres for two more years for around 2M/year.
Vinnie Hinostroza – 29, W, $1,700,000
He played just 26 games for Buffalo this season with 2 goals and nine assists.
Zemgus Girgensons – 29, LW, C $2,200,000
He isn’t scoring as much as you would desire from the 14th overall pick. But you can consider Girgerson as a power forward, and he is good at it, leading the forwards in hits and blocks with 96 and 49, respectively. Fans appreciate him, he wants to stay, and in a team already lacking experience, I would be surprised to see Buffalo not offering him a new contract. He is five years younger than Okposo so he can win the Cup in the future. In case of Okposo’s departure, he will take the captaincy. He will probably circle around the same salary he had, and the range can be anywhere between 2 to 6 years.
Craig Anderson, 41, G, $1,500,000
Soon-to-be 42 year-young goalie had his last tango. He helped Sabres when they needed it, ending this season with .908. Even if they still had a huge room for improvement at the netminder’s position, they show some promise as a team, so they might probably circle around UFAs to sign someone for two years so that Levi can develop properly. I guess we might see Anderson back in the league soon as part of the coaching staff.
RFAs on the Buffalo Sabres
Tyson Jost – 25, C, $2,000,000
Jost repeated his career max of 0.37 ppg, and even if he was for free, the Sabres shouldn’t let him go for anything. Since his RFA status, the negotiation might be less complicated, and Jost wants to stay. I think 4 years with 2.5 M annually will work for both sides.
Kale Clague – 24, D, $750,000
He will be signed but won’t play a significant role yet.
RFA playing in the minors signed: Linus Weissbach, Lukas Rousek, and Brett Murray. We might also see minors UFAs Lawrence Pilut and Jeremy Davies re-signed for depth purposes.
With all free agents re-signed, Buffalo would still have over 12 M under the cap, so it is just on the owner if they are willing to invest.
One player that could be interesting would be Matt Murray. Someone is going to take advantage of the Leafs’ goalie and cap situation. Some pick for Murray and dumping Comrie into Arizona along with another pick might do it (it is up to Murray if he wants to try a fresh start with Sabres with less pressure, although he already declined Sabres in 2022). Murray does have a modified no-trade clause which could complicate things.
Also, Buffalo can use another defensively oriented forward (RW, ideally), so Garnet Hathaway might be an option if Buffalo can top the other offers.
Next Season Sabres can line up like this:
Jeff Skinner – Tage Thompson – Alex Tuch
Casey Mittelstadt – Dylan Cozens – Victor Olofsson
Jordan Greenway – Peyton Krebs – John-Jason Peterka
Zemgus Girgensons – Tyson Jost – Garnet Hathaway
Rasmus Dahlin – Henri Jokiharju
Owen Power – Mattias Samuelsson
Jacob Bryson – Ilya Lyubushkin
Roster Size: 24
Salary Cap: $83,500,000
Cap Hit: $76,927,737
Cap Space: $6,572,263