The Buffalo Sabres had 12 different defensemen suit up for the team at one point or another during the 2013-2014 season. Things will certainly change over the next few months – in fact, some of those blueliners are already gone. So who will be on the roster when the season rolls around in late September?
BYE, BYE, BYE
Knock off one of the twelve defensemen to start, as Brayden McNabb is already gone. McNabb played in 12 games with the Sabres this past season before he was traded as part of the deal that brought Nicolas Deslauriers and prospect Hudson Fasching to Buffalo.
Deslauriers suited up for 17 games with the Sabres, but isn’t being counted as one of the twelve even though he can also play defense. For argument’s sake, let’s just consider him a winger and leave it at that for now.
Another Sabres defenseman who won’t be returning to Buffalo is Alexander Sulzer. A pending UFA, Sulzer recently signed with the Cologne Sharks in his hometown country of Germany for next season.
Henrik Tallinder will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, while Chad Ruhwedel will be restricted. Everyone else is locked up for several more years, but that isn’t to say a trade or two couldn’t be made over the summer.
WHO’S LOCKED UP… FOR NOW
Let’s start at the top and work our way down, beginning with mainstay Christian Ehrhoff. Ehrhoff has been a staple on the Sabres blueline; he brings a strong veteran presence and has arguably been one of Buffalo’s best defensemen, but that hasn’t stopped many people from discussing a potential trade. Could he be shipped elsewhere? If so, who would be the “veteran” of Buffalo’s defensive core?
Then there’s Tyler Myers. The 24-year-old was hit with injury towards the end of the season but is healed up and ready to play for Team Canada in the upcoming World Championships. Sure, he makes his fair share of mistakes (don’t they all?), but he brings size to the blueline.
Jamie McBain and Mike Weber make up two other parts of the Sabres’ blueline. McBain had 17 points in 69 games this season. Weber has been with the Sabres for several years and is making his way up through the ranks, but finished the year with a minus-29.
Mark Pysyk is another option for the Sabres’ defense next season. Pysyk appeared in 44 games with the Sabres and has also provided a great presence on the Rochester Americans blueline. At times, he was arguably the best defenseman on the Sabres’ roster and made a few trips up and down I-90 this season, going back and forth from the AHL to the NHL and vice versa. Could he find himself a permanent spot in Buffalo next season?
SABRES’ DEFENSE CORPS ADDING YOUNGSTERS
There’s also a trio of young defensemen in the core, starting with Jake McCabe. The 20-year-old left the University of Wisconsin to join the Sabres near the end of the season. He’s only got seven games of NHL experience, but could become part of a youthful defensive pool in Buffalo next season.
Nikita Zadorov is likely to return to the OHL’s London Knights next season. He appeared in seven games with the Sabres at the beginning of this season before being shipped back to the Knights. At 19, Zadorov is the youngest of all those defensemen who played with Buffalo last season. He’s not afraid to get physical, an attribute that could prove useful but could also get him into trouble if he isn’t careful.
Finally, there’s defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, who could end up in either Buffalo or Rochester next season. Ristolainen played 34 games with the Sabres this season, spending the rest of the season with the Amerks, where he is currently in the midst of a first-round playoff series against the Chicago Wolves.
So, let’s hear your opinion. Take the poll below and leave your opinions in the comments.
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