The Buffalo Sabres announced Saturday that goaltender Devon Levi has been loaned to Rochester (AHL) and Eric Comrie has been recalled. The move comes after Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has pulled away with the starting job, starting four straight games and recording back-to-back shutouts.
It’s a move that many have speculated – maybe even anticipated – and one that has an effect on all three goalies atop the Sabres depth chart. Let’s breakdown the ripple effect for the trio.
The Sabres brass have reiterated that they’re constantly evaluating the best option for Levi’s development. He hasn’t played since Buffalo’s 5-2 loss on January 9th, to no fault of his own. Luukkonen is playing at an elite level right now, which has pinned Levi to the bench.
The move to Rochester allows Levi to see some game action. Most 22 year-old goalies aren’t able to crack NHL lineups, and we’re seeing some of the league’s best prospects thrive in the AHL. That list includes Yaroslav Askarov, Jesper Wallstedt, and Dustin Wolf.
The slow cook approach may seem like a bit of a step back in development since Levi stormed onto the scene at the end of last season. However, it’s important to remember that development isn’t always linear, and being stapled to the bench certainly isn’t going to help him improve his game.
Levi posted a 2.94 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage with Rochester earlier this season before a quick recall after two starts. He’s 8-7-2 with the Sabres this season with a 3.32 GAA and .889 save percentage.
Injuries have really derailed Comrie’s tenure in Buffalo, but he’s shown in flashes that he can be a quality asset for the team. His 1-5-0 record with the big club buried him to third on the depth chart, however. Comrie’s 4.01 GAA and .863 save percentage, combined with his contract, allowed him to pass through waivers unclaimed in his recent demotion to the AHL.
His numbers with Rochester were stellar, albeit in three games. He went 2-1-0 with a shutout, posting a 1.67 GAA and .951 save percentage. The numbers alone were worthy of a call-up, and Comrie is surely ready to reestablish himself as the team’s primary backup.
As a pending unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, he leaves the Sabres with some options. If Luukkonen continues to play well and Levi pushes his way back to the NHL, Comrie may be expendable to a team searching for goaltending depth at the trade deadline.
Luukkonen’s on a career high right now, but it’s important to remember where he was at a few weeks ago. While the pecking order is currently Luukkonen – Comrie – Levi, it was Levi – Luukkonen – Comrie at the turn of the new year.
Luukkonen will also have to prove that his run was simply not just running into the two worst teams in the league. You’d expect any team to perform well against the San Jose Sharks and Chicago Blackhawks, but can he do it against teams in playoff positions?
Questions still remain with all three goalies, but Luukkonen stepping up has really helped make the picture a lot more clear.