After finishing with the lowest point total in the NHL for two years
in a row, Buffalo Sabres’ fans finally had something to cheer about during the
2015-16 season. The team increased its point total by 27 over the previous
year, and drastically improved its goal differential. A combination of players
acquired through the draft, trades and free agency combined to make the Sabres
a team on the rise.
the way was rookie phenom Jack Eichel, the second overall pick in last year’s
draft. He was the team’s top goal scorer, and finished second in points behind
Ryan O’Reilly. Fellow rookie Sam Reinhart, the second overall selection in the
previous draft, finished just behind Eichel in both goals and points. O’Reilly,
acquired in a trade last offseason with Colorado, proved to be more than
capable as Buffalo’s top center. Veterans like Brian Gionta and David Legwand
combined with Evander Kane, Rasmus Ristolainen and other youngsters to greatly
improve the quality of play in Buffalo.
Free Agents: Ristolainen, just 21 years old, is turning into one of the best
young defenseman in the game and is a restricted free agent. The Sabres will
not let him get away, and will likely sign him to a long term deal. Backup
goaltender Chad Johnson is an unrestricted free agent and will probably test
the free agent market looking to become a starter after playing well this
season. 35 year old Legwand is also an UFA, and the team may decide to move on
with a younger option.
player not up for free agency but likely on his way out is Matt Moulson. He is
due five million dollars a year for the next 3 years, a sum way too high for his
meager production of just 21 points in 81 games.
Picks: General Manager Tim Murray has made it clear he is looking for a left
handed, top four defenseman. There are three of these players expected to go in
the top ten of this year’s draft, in which Buffalo will pick 8th.
Murray could trade up using his vast draft capital (12 picks this year) to
ensure he gets one, or he may wait and take the best player available.
Agent Additions: If the Sabres look for defensive help in free agency, the team
could add Keith Yandle (New York Rangers) or Alex Goligoski (Dallas Stars).
Former Sabre Brian Campbell may be available, but at age 36, it is unclear if
the team would want to sign him. Since the free agent market is relatively
thin, and Buffalo has so many draft picks and prospects,
they can try to acquire a defenseman via trade. Targets include Cam Fowler
(Anaheim Ducks), Kevin Shattenkirk (St. Louis Blues) and Patrick Wiercioch
Labels: Eric Bokobza