The Buffalo Sabres are well positioned entering the offseason, with only four free agents (Zemgus Girgensons, Vinnie Hinostroza, Tyson Jost, and Kale Clague) and just under $17 million in available cap space.
Sabres GM Kevyn Adams has done well acquiring talent in exchange for core players like Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart and has been proactive in extending Tage Thompson, Dylan Cozens, and Mattias Samuelsson, but Buffalo appears to need one or two players to get them over the hump and into the playoffs in the difficult Eastern Conference. The question for Adams is whether he will maintain the approach of slowly building his club internally or choose to take advantage of this situation and make moves to upgrade the Sabres to get into the postseason for the first time since 2011.
Teams Scrambling To Make Deals
The landscape appears to be perfect for the taking for Buffalo, as a number of clubs with the salary cap going up only $1-to-2 million are looking to deal players with a year left on their contracts who they cannot re-sign or the rights to players slated to hit free agency on July 1. The Athletic reported over the weekend that Adams top priority is to bolster the blueline and could be in the market to add a veteran netminder to take some of the pressure off of rookie Devon Levi.
New Jersey may be looking to deal the negotiating rights for defenseman Ryan Graves (as they did with Damon Severson last week) to enable a team to get the blueliner signed before the start of free agency. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported over the weekend that the Calgary Flames have been receiving inquiries on defenseman Noah Hanifin (under contract at $4.95 million for 2023-24), and Carolina may be open to dealing Brett Pesce if they can’t get him extended.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) June 11, 2023
Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck reportedly told Jets management that he is not interested in signing an extension and could be a fit for the Sabres with one year remaining at just over $6 million, but that would likely entail the Sabres giving up a young retainable player like Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Peyton Krebs, or Casey Mittelstadt. Luukkonen is no longer waiver exempt, so any acquisition of a goalie would likely necessitate his being dealt. Krebs is in the final year of his entry-level contract and would be in line for a significant pay increase with a good offensive year, while Mittelstadt has one year left