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Buffalo Sabres

Sabres Rely On Relationships To Attract Blueliners To Buffalo



en)The Buffalo Sabres normally have to overpay or offer longer term than other clubs to attract veteran free agents, but their young core group and narrowly missing the postseason has made them a more attractive destination.

Stanley Cup-winning defenseman Erik Johnson said on Sunday that the Sabres young corps of blueliners (Rasmus Dahlin, Owen Power, and Mattias Samuelsson) reminded him of the group in Colorado (Cale Makar, Bowen Byram, Devon Toews) prior to their winning the Cup in 2022. The final push to get him to sign with Buffalo however was his longtime friendship with Sabres team captain Kyle Okposo.

“I’ve known Kyle since I was eight years old. We grew up playing hockey together in Minnesota. So that was the familiarity for me and I know (Tyson Jost), too.” Johnson said. “Kyle and I have had a good relationship for a long time and our families are really close and just knowing him made it a little bit easier. He could kind of speak about the team, the staff, and the city, and it was a pretty easy decision. I had five or six other teams but Buffalo was really kind of in my gut felt like the place to go.”


Clifton Comfortable With Granato

With blueliner Connor Clifton, the relationship that put the Sabres over the top was with head coach Don Granato, who coached the former Boston Bruin as part of the US National Development Program when he was 16 years old.

“(When) I was playing for the (New Jersey) Hitmen and my U-17 year. I didn’t get invited to the NTDP, but during the year they were short a defenseman (because) an injury happened. I got called up and went to play for about a month. That was the first time I met him. I didn’t really know any of the guys, so he was a huge part of getting me comfortable.” Clifton said.

“That month of hockey. I think I learned more than I ever have honestly in that short period. It’s helped me a lot from college to the professional level. He was a huge part of that and getting me comfortable. I went back to finish my year with the Hitmen. Then that U-18 year….my senior year in high school, I ended up going full time and that was one of the best years of development I’ve ever had. He was a huge part of that, working with him every day.”