The Buffalo Sabres believed it was important to bring back the club’s veteran leadership with such a young core group. Last month, the Sabres re-upped team captain Kyle Okposo for one year and on Tuesday the club re-signed alternate captain Zemgus Girgensons for the same term and AAV of $2.5 million.
All aboard the Latvian Locomotive! 🚂
We have re-signed Zemgus Girgensons to a one-year contract worth $2.5 million.
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) June 20, 2023
The 29-year-old was Buffalo’s first-round pick (14th overall) in the 2012 NHL Draft and is the longest-serving Sabres player on the roster, compiling 174 points (81 goals, 93 assists) in 625 career games over nine seasons. Last year, the rugged Latvian had 18 points (10 goals, 8 assists) in 80 games last season playing mostly a bottom-six checking role, but also served as a penalty killer.
“Zemgus is, I would call it, a quiet leader (who) goes about his business but cares about his teammates and teammates care about him,” Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams said in April. “He’s literally the same every game. There’s very little drop off [or] ups and downs with him.”
Sabres Stacked At Forward
The signing preserves the flexibility that head coach Don Granato has up front, with the top two lines centered by Tage Thompson and Dylan Cozens, and some combination of Jeff Skinner, Alex Tuch, Jack Quinn, and J-J Peterka potentially the wingers in the top six, and veterans Girgensons, Okposo, Jordan Greenway, Casey Mittelstadt and Peyton Krebs making the bottom six.
With the return of Girgensons, the Sabres have three unsigned free agents in forwards Vinnie Hinostroza (UFA), Tyson Jost (RFA) and defenseman Kyle Clague (RFA). Both Jost and Clague have to receive qualifying offers from Buffalo by June 30 or they become unrestricted free agents. Hinostroza split time between Rochester and Buffalo last season, while Jost had 22 points in 59 games after being claimed off of waivers from Minnesota.
With young forwards Jiri Kulich, Lukas Rousek, and Matthew Savoie pushing for playing time and Jost’s qualifying offer being in excess of $2 million, it is likely that both forwards will be allowed to test the open market. Clague also split time between the AHL and NHL last season, but with nearly 100 games of NHL experience and requiring a qualifying offer of less than $800,000, it is possible that Adams would qualify the 25-year-old to serve as a seventh defenseman.