Over the past nine years, the Buffalo Sabres have been a model franchise of failure. During the past nine years, Sabres hockey has struggled to find the right team to make the playoffs. The Sabres have had a lot of high draft picks, but they have been unable to bring Buffalo any postseason success. Although the franchise has not been successful, captain Jack Eichel, Rasmus Dahlin, and newly acquired Eric Staal look to lead the charge back into the postseason.
Why the Sabres Missed the Playoffs
Loaded with lots of talent and multiple franchise-altering players, the Sabres looked primed for the playoffs. Although the Sabres have lots of players that are highly skilled offensively, the team finished 21st in the league in goals. The team didn’t even score 200 goals as they finished with 193 goals. The team also struggled to keep the puck out of their net. They allowed the 11th most goals in the league.
The trio of Linus Ullmark, Carter Hutton, and Jonas Johansson allowed 215 goals. The Sabres have to hope for some bounce-back seasons from their star players and better production from their free-agent signings.
The Sabres have more than half their 2019-20 roster as upcoming free agents. New general manager Kevyn Adams will have his hands full this offseason with trying to create a competitive team.
With 11 forwards from last season’s team going to be free agents, Kevyn Adams is going to have to spend his money wisely on the players that will fit best for the Sabres franchise.
Coming off of a very productive year, Kahun is in for a hefty pay raise. The 25-year-old forward scored 31 points in 56 games, almost matching his total from his rookie season. During his rookie campaign, Kahun netted 13 goals and added 24 assists for 37 total points in 82 games. With the improved point totals, Kahun is due for a nice pay raise from the Sabres. Kahun should get between 3 and 4 million dollars on his next contract.
After winning the Hobey Baker award during his time while playing for Harvard in the NCAA, Vesey was a coveted free agent. The Rangers won the Vesey sweepstakes, and he was a good player for them. His point totals went up every year he was playing for New York. During the 2019-20 offseason, the Rangers traded Vesey to clear some cap space for the big signing of Artemi Panarin.
Vesey was shipped off to the Sabres and struggled in his first year. Vesey posted his worst point total in his NHL career with 20 points in 64 games. His point total was disappointing, but he still deserves a new contract. Vesey should make similar money as Dominik Kahun. His new contract should be between $3 million and $4 million.
Thompson was acquired by the Sabres in the Ryan O’Reilly deal. Unfortunately, Thompson has not been as good as expected since the trade. Thompson is still a promising player for the Sabers. The big six-foot five-inch center is going to be a valuable part of the Sabres moving forward. Since Thompson does not have a lot of NHL experience, his new contract should be between $925,000 and $1 million.
The midseason trade acquisition was only able to play in 19 games for Buffalo. During this time, he struggled offensively. He was only able to score one goal and add three assists for a total of four points. Despite this, Frolik has been a productive player during his 12-year career, and the 32-year-old deserves a new contract.
Frolik will not make as much money as his last contract. In his previous contract, Frolik made $4.3 million, and that contract just expired. His new contract should come in at just about $3 million.
Buffalo’s 2014 7th round pick surprisingly turned out to be very good. The Swedish sniper scored 20 goals and added 22 assists playing alongside Jack Eichel. During Olofsson’s rookie season, he proved that he could play in the NHL. Due to his impressive play, Buffalo should sign him for the long term. A long term deal will come at a hefty price. Olofsson should be looking for $5million – $6 million on his next contract.
Reinhart, a former 2nd overall pick by the Sabres, has been very productive during his time in the NHL. The 2014 2nd overall pick has been a consistent 20 goal scorer throughout his career. Thanks to his offensive ability, Reinhart will also get paid very well this offseason. Reinhart should expect between $5 million and $7 million.
The Sabres have three defensemen that are free agents this offseason. The Sabres should look to only bring one of these defensemen back. One of the defensemen that is a free agent is Lawrence Pilut. No, Pilut is not the player the Sabres should bring back. Pilut signed a contract to play in Europe for the Traktor Chelyabinsk of the KHL. Pilut was a solid player, but the Sabres ultimately can not bring him back until his contract with Traktor expires.
The other free agent defenseman this offseason is Matt Hunwick. Hunwick is a 36 years old veteran who does not get consistent playing time. The Sabres should try to get younger, and they should not concern themselves with resigning an older defenseman.
Montour was acquired at the trade deadline during the 2018-19 season from the Ducks. The Sabres have a weak defence, and Montour is perhaps their best defenseman. He is a must sign for the Sabres. This season, Montour scored five goals and 13 assists in 54 games. Montour was also a plus 13, showing that he is capable of shutting down the other team’s top players. The defenseman should expect his next contract to be between $4 million and $5 million.
The goalie tandem of Ullmark and Hutton struggled this season, but, expect a bounce-back season from the Sabres goaltending duo. After an offseason surgery to help fix an issue, Carter Hutton should bounce back to the form he was playing at when he played with the St. Louis Blues.
The Swedish goaltender had a good year for the Sabres and deserves to get paid. The goalie posted a 2.69 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage in 34 games for Buffalo. The 27-year-old is the future starting goalie for the Sabres, and they should lock him up for at least four or five years. His next contract should also be around $4 million per season.
Free Agent Targets
The Sabres struggled to score goals on offence last season, and they also were unable to keep the puck out of their net. This free agency is an important one to help shape the future of the franchise. Acquiring Staal will help the Sabres center and scoring depth, but he is not enough. The team has to acquire more dynamic goal scorers to help propel them to the playoffs.
The 31-year-old center has spent his entire career with the Nashville Predators. The Sabres need more scoring, and Smith can provide that. Scoring 18 goals for the Predators last season, he would drastically improve the Sabres scoring. Smith should play with newly acquired Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner on the second or third line. They will prove to be a formidable trio for the Sabres. Smith’s contract should be about two years long and worth about $3.5 million.
The current Florida Panthers sniper is a pending free agent that Buffalo needs to look to add. As Hoffman has never won the Stanley Cup, he should be hungry to join a team that looks to be in contention for the championship. Hoffman would play a vital role in the Sabres making a push towards a Stanley Cup championship. The Sabres would have to pay Hoffman a hefty $7 million for his services.
Jon Merrill has been a solid defenseman for the Vegas Golden Knights during their three years in existence. Buffalo needs some help shutting down opponents’ top players. Although Merrill is not a shutdown defenseman, he will be an upgrade on the Buffalo blue line. The contract should be about three years and worth about $2 million a season.
The Sabres have not been successful for a long time and thus have been able to add lots of talent to their prospect pool. With numerous highly ranked prospects on the cusp of making the roster, the future looks bright for the Sabres. Dylan Cozens, Rasmus Asplund, and Casey Mittelstadt are all primed to make jumps to the NHL roster and hope to make a significant impact. The Sabres also own the 8th overall pick in the draft and will be able to add another young, dynamic player to their prospect pool.
In conclusion, the Sabres have an impressive core and lots of young talent, but they need to add some veterans to their already star-studded lineup to become competitive once again. With a couple of smart signings and young players developing, the Sabres should be a force to be reckoned with next season.
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