The two players discussed in this week’s Free Agent Friday are on opposite ends of the spectrum. One is a forward, the other a defenseman. One is American while the other is Swedish. Their ages are not the same; one was drafted, one wasn’t. For this week’s edition of Free Agent Friday, we’ll take a look at Derek Whitmore and Dennis Persson.
Derek Whitmore | Left Wing | 27 years old | 2011-12 Salary: $525,000
Whitmore, undrafted, has never been involved with another NHL team besides Buffalo – but his limited NHL experience may prove challenging for him as he reaches the free agent market on July 1 as an unrestricted free agent.
Whitmore began his pro career after four years with Bowling Green State University. He signed with the Sabres in 2008, playing with the Portland Pirates for three seasons and racking up some impressive statistics, including 47 points in 80 games in the ’10-’11 season.
With the farm club’s move to Rochester, Whitmore – a Rochester native! – was back home, and this is where he spent last season.
In 75 games with the Amerks this year, he had 28 goals and 16 assists.
However, the best part of his season would come in December 2011, when he was called up to Buffalo and made his NHL debut. He had no points in two games with the big club, but it’s a start.
Whitmore has certainly proven his ability to perform at the AHL and minor league level; will this be enough for him to get another contract with Buffalo – or another team – for the upcoming season? Or will he choose the path of several other AHLers and go to the KHL?
Dennis Persson | Defense | 24 years old | 2011-12 Salary: $525,000
The Swedish soon-to-be RFA has been with the Sabres organization since 2006, when the Buffalo club drafted him 24th overall.
He played in the Swedish Elite League prior to being drafted, and continued to spend time there even after being drafted until Buffalo signed him to a three-year entry level contract in July 2008.
The following season was spent largely with Timra IK of the Swedish Elite League, although he came to Portland and played eight games there before making the full move to the AHL the next season.
After two seasons with the Portland Pirates, Persson spent this past season with the Rochester Americans. He missed portions of the season with knee/ankle injuries and ended up playing 39 games. In that time, he had three goals and four assists.
Persson has never played in an NHL game.
With a solid core of NHL and AHL defensemen already in the system, where does Persson fit into the Sabres’ plan? Although he may not see NHL time next season with Buffalo, it seems probable that upon re-signing, he’ll make a return to Rochester for at least another year before making time in the big league.
Of course, there’s always the option of returning to Sweden or other overseas leagues to play there, though the Sabres would retain his North American rights in this case. General manager Darcy Regier already stated that the team will make qualifying offers to all of its restricted free agents.