Six members of the AHL’s Rochester Americans are set to become restricted free agents when the market opens on July 5. Should the Buffalo Sabres organization retain these players, or will other teams dish out offer sheets?
Here, we’ll take a look at each of the players and how they fared this season.
Note: Brian Flynn is also set to become an RFA, but has been excluded from this list since he ended the NHL regular season with the Buffalo Sabres.
MATT HACKETT (G, 23, Hometown: London, Ontario)
The 6-foot-2 netminder was acquired by the Buffalo Sabres as a part of the trade that sent Jason Pominville to the Minnesota Wild.
Prior to joining the Americans, Hackett spent the majority of the season with the AHL’s Houston Aeros, farm team of the Wild. He played 43 games there, allowing 114 goals on 1,222 shots faced, and went 19-20-0-3.
Upon joining the Americans, Hackett mostly played a back-up role to goaltender David Leggio, although he did see action in three regular season games. Hackett allowed five goals on 110 shots and won all three games. He also appeared in one playoff game, allowing two goals on 20 shots in a 2-0 loss to the Toronto Marlies.
Hackett earned $900,000 last season in the final year of his entry-level contract. He’ll have to sign a new contract with the Buffalo Sabres organization if they hope to return him to the Americans… although there are plenty of goaltenders in the mix. Leggio will be an unrestricted free agent, which could open up the starting position for Hackett. Also in the fold are Nathan Lieuwen and Connor Knapp, with Andrey Makarov waiting in the wings.
LUKE ADAM (C, 22, Hometown: St. John’s, Newfoundland)
Luke Adam has been with the Buffalo Sabres organization since being drafted by the team 44th overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. After playing in the QMJHL, he joined the AHL’s Portland Pirates in the 2010-11 season. That year, he also saw his first NHL action, joining the team for 19 games. He followed that with the 2011-12 season, where he played 52 games with the Sabres and just 27 with the Rochester Americans.
Just when it seemed like he might have made it – he returned to the Americans for the 2012-2013 season. In the end, he played just four games with the Sabres this past season, and struggled to maintain an NHL spot under Lindy Ruff’s tenure.
Could the installation of Ron Rolston as Buffalo Sabres head coach provide exactly the opportunity Adam needs? The to-be 23-year-old had 15 goals and 22 assists for 37 points in 67 games with the Americans this season.
On a team that is low on centermen, Adam could be exactly what’s needed – if he gets the opportunity. He made $875,000 last season in the final year of his entry-level contract.
COREY TROPP (F, 23, Hometown: Grosse Pointe, Michigan)
Tropp has been a part of the Sabres organization since being drafted 89th overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. After completing three years at Michigan State, he joined the Portland Pirates for 76 games in the 2010-11 season, acquiring 40 points in that stretch. He played 34 games with the Sabres the following season, scoring eight points, and also had 22 points in 27 games with the Rochester Americans.
This past season, however, he suffered an injury in the first game of the season, keeping him out for the majority of the year. He played six regular season games with the Americans, scoring two goals and two assists. He had no points in three playoff games against the Toronto Marlies.
Tropp made $700,000 last season and, like the two before him, is at the end of his entry-level contract.
The final three players on this list are three that may be relatively unknown to Buffalo Sabres fans, if you haven’t been paying much attention to the Rochester Americans. None of these players have seen any NHL action.
DREW SCHIESTEL (D/F, 24, Hometown: Hamilton, Ontario)
Schiestel is primarily a defenseman, but has filled in as a forward on occasion with the Americans.
Drafted by the Sabres in 2007, injuries have plagued him in the past, setting up a questionable future. He had 35 points in 97 games over two seasons with the Portland Pirates from 2009-2011.
Schiestel had 12 points (2-10) with the Americans in 2011-12 before he didn’t make the team’s clear day roster and was claimed by the Texas Stars. There, he appeared in 16 games and had five assists.
He returned to the Americans this season and had a goal and two assists in 35 games, being scratched for handfuls of games here and there throughout the year. Schiestel made $577,500 last season.
NICK CRAWFORD (D, 23, Hometown: Caledon, Ontario)
Crawford was drafted by the Sabres in 2008, but remained in the OHL – with the Saginaw Spirit and Barrie Colts – until 2010, when he joined the Portland Pirates. That season, Crawford appeared in 76 games, scoring seven goals and 24 assists.
He had 22 points (6-16) in 70 games with the Rochester Americans during the 2011-2012 season, then had 19 points (5-14) in 53 games with the Amerks this year. Of defensemen still with the team, only Brayden McNabb and Alex Biega had more points than Crawford this season.
Crawford finished his entry-level contract, earning $571,667 this past season.
JACOB LAGACE (LW, 23, Hometown: Beloeil, Quebec)
Like Crawford, Lagace has been a part of the Buffalo Sabres organization since being drafted in 2008. He joined the Portland Pirates for 58 games in the 2010-11 season, scoring 10 goals and 13 assists. He also appeared in 13 games with the Greenville Road Warriors of the ECHL that season, tallying six assists.
This season, he spent the majority of the year in the ECHL – this time, with the Bakersfield Condors. Lagace had 16 goals and 20 assists in 57 games, ending the season second in scoring on the Condors. With the Americans, he appeared in just four games, where he had no points and two penalty minutes.
Lagace earned $558,333 in the final year of his entry-level deal.