The Buffalo Sabres may be hoping to address one of their important offseason needs before they step onto the floor at the Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday for the NHL Draft, but their fallback position might be in free agency if they can find a veteran blueliner willing to take a short-term deal.
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Defensemen on the market like Calgary’s Noah Hanifin and Carolina’s Brett Pesce are one year away from free agency and most clubs trading for them are looking to sign them to long-term extensions. The Sabres would be one of those clubs, as it would be too costly to trade a young prospect like Isak Rosen or Noah Ostlund and possibly a high draft pick for a short-term fix.
The deal over the weekend between Philadelphia and St. Louis involved defensemen Travis Sanheim and Torey Krug was nixed when the former Bruin exercised his no-trade clause to block it. Sanheim is said to still be on the block, but new Flyers GM Daniel Briere may find it difficult to find a home for the 27-year-old entering the first year of an eight-year, $50 million deal and it is unlikely the Sabres would want to acquire a player with that kind of term and salary. The offensive-minded Krug has four years left at $6.5 million, but the 32-year-old has not played 70 or more games since 2018 and stylistically is not a good fit with the Sabres.
Free Agent Options Are Thin
The Sabres and most NHL clubs seem to be looking at the trade market as a more viable outlet for improvement since the 2023 free-agent class is considered thin. Matt Dumba, Radko Gudas, John Klingberg, and Scott Mayfield are likely to get overpaid on the open market, but there may be a veteran or two that would be a fit on a one-or-two-year deal for reasonable money to provide support for youngsters Rasmus Dahlin, Owen Power, and Mattias Samuelsson.
Former #1 overall pick Erik Johnson is one such option. The Stanley Cup winner played a diminished role with Colorado last season but is looking to continue his 15-year NHL career after spending a dozen seasons with the Avalanche. Although the 35-year-old Johnson has a lot of wear and tear on him and might not be capable of playing a top-four role every night, his leadership, experience, and capability as a defensive defenseman could be a positive influence on fellow top overall picks Dahlin and Power.
If this truly is the end, thank you Erik Johnson for everything.
— know byram (@fourthoverall) June 23, 2023