BUFFALO, N.Y. — With NHL Free Agency set to begin Monday at noon, the Sabres find themselves in a decent position to add. They currently sit with the 14th most cap space in the league at just over $15 million. Of course they still have 7 restricted free agents to sign should they choose, but none that should break the bank. Next year however is where their situation really opens up. They’ll need new contracts for Sam Reinhart, Casey Mittelstadt, and Brandon Montour, but their available cap space will balloon to just under $43 million based on this year’s cap number as a bunch of contracts expire.
The only real crooked number they’ll have to deal with beyond next season is Kyle Okposo, who’ll make $6 million for the next four years with a 15 team no trade clause. Rasmus Dahlin will come off his rookie deal in 2 years, but that’s really the only concern down the line. Okposo however should serve as a point of emphasis that taking the free agent route can be pricey and treacherous. The Sabres need NHL talent and have some money to make it work. Considering the number of holes that remain on a top heavy roster, it’s probably more prudent to target a few value buys rather than one of the big names.
“That’s the beauty of being a free agent," explained Sabres General Manager Jason Botterill during the team's development camp 3-on-3 tournament Saturday afternoon. "They have a lot of teams after them.”
That interest equals dollars. Buffalo may not be inclined to burn through their cap space so quickly seeing as that space provides flexibility and the ability to take advantage of other teams struggling to get under the cap, like Vegas and the Colin Miller trade. Botterill also pointed out the need to replace Scott Wedgewood as the organization's third string goaltender with prospect Ukko-Pekka Lukkonen recovering from surgery.
“Number three goalie is very important for us, and then we also like our depth on defense but I think if we can maybe find an opportunity to maybe bring in one or two forwards, we’ll certainly look at it.”
So who’s out there?
- Gustav Nyquist scored 60 points, 4th among available players, but he’ll likely cost more then they want to spend.
- Brian Boyle can play center and is a big body who put up 18 goals last season.
- Joonas Donskoi would be another ideal option as would Ryan Dzingel if the price somehow stays reasonable.
- More realistic, support forwards like Michael Ferland or Colin Wilson could help flesh out the bottom two lines.
Finding a center to ease the load on Casey Mittelstadt behind Eichel remains a priority. If the team is to acquire that player, knowing they’ll have to likely overspend for them in free agency makes the trade route a much more likely avenue to fill that role.