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3 Free Agents Sabres Should Avoid at All Costs

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As free agency approaches on July 1st, the Buffalo Sabres are primed to make a big move with plenty of cap space. They have stocked their prospect pool with top forward talent, and their first-round pick is expected to be on the trade market. If the Sabres decide to take a big swing on a free agent, they should proceed with caution.

Right now, the biggest holes on the team are at center and right defense. There are plenty of potential free-agent additions to fill those roles. Centers such as Matt Duchene, Chandler Stephenson, Sean Monahan, and Adam Henrique are hybrid middle-six contributors. Brandon Montour, Matt Roy, Sean Durzi, and Brett Pesce lead the list of right-shot defensemen.

The Sabres could also tier down, with someone like Jack Roslovic or Alex Wennberg as their third pivot. The list of right-handed blueliners continues with Sean Walker, Alex Carrier, Jalen Chatfield, or the aging but effective Chris Tanev.

You may have noticed some key unrestricted free agents not named above. Based on performance, contract, and age, some players could have Buffalo moving in the wrong direction. These are three free agents the Sabres should avoid at all costs.

Must Read: Ranking Former Sabres In Stanley Cup Final

Elias Lindholm

Elias Lindholm Vancouver Canucks player comps

On a contending team, Elias Lindholm is considered a good middle-six center. By that profile, the Sabres should be searching for free-agent players like Lindholm However, his play in Vancouver was very alarming.

Lindholm is generally regarded as a two-way center, but by PuckLuck measures, his WAR has him as a below-replacement-level defender. On top of that, his offensive production dropped off since his trade to the Canucks. He went from a 0.65 point-per-game player in Calgary to a 0.46 point-per-game player.

His role changed from being the top-line center to primarily the third-line center in Vancouver, likely the same role he would fill in Buffalo. Per Evolving-Hockey, his projected contract is a seven-year deal with a $7.935 million cap hit. That’s well above what a typical third-line center is worth.

The Sabres are already paying over $14 million to Tage Thompson and Dylan Cozens for the foreseeable future. Adding a free agent long-term deal to Lindholm with a cap number that supersedes Buffalo’s top centers wouldn’t make sense, especially considering role and age.

Lindholm is a 29-year-old free agent, turning 30 in December. A seven-year deal would put him at 37 by the end of his contract. With his value already deteriorating, his best days may already be behind him.

Considering Nick Paul is his top comp, a nearly $56 million deal is something the Sabres should stay far away from.

TJ Brodie

TJ Brodie Toronto Maple Leafs player comps

TJ Brodie has been a top-pair, complementary defenseman throughout the majority of his career. He’s a left-shot who’s comfortable playing the right side, able to slide right into a shutdown role. He signed in  Toronto under the same premise but failed to deliver on that effectiveness in 2023-2024. At 34 years old, Brodie is projected for a four-year contract with a $5.181 million average annual value by Evolving-Hockey.

With Marc Staal as his most similar player across the league, the data suggests Brodie is more of a bottom-pair defenseman. The Sabres are looking for someone to play with either Rasmus Dahlin, Owen Power, or Bowen Byram on the right side in the top two pairs, which doesn’t align with Brodie’s current value.

The Sabres have better internal options, including re-signing restricted free agent Henri Jokiharju. This renders a potential Brodie signing unnecessary, and something that would ultimately be a hindrance to the organization.

Matt Dumba

Matt Dumba Tampa Bay Lightning player comps

This is not your Matt Dumba of seven years ago. in 2018-2019, he had 12 goals and 22 points in only 32 games, following up a 50-point season. Nowadays, Dumba is strictly a physical defenseman who is not very effective.

His team and role-adjusted penalty killing is his only positive metric at this point in his career. Other than that, Dumba is stuck in a stay-at-home role approaching the dreaded 30-year-old dropoff.

Evolving-Hockey projects a three-year, $3.881 million AAV for the right-handed veteran, which is way overpriced for a below-replacement-level defenseman. Regardless of salary and term, signing Dumba would be a detriment to the Sabres.

Again, Jokiharju is a much better internal option. Connor Clifton already fills Dumba’s role as a right-shot physical presence on the backend, which wouldn’t leave any room to get Dumba in the lineup to help the penalty kill.

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