Rochester Americans' Free Agency Scramble

Free agency is just around the corner, and the NHL isn’t the only league that has to deal with the coming and going of players from organization to organization. NHL free agency obviously impacts the American Hockey League as well, and the Rochester Americans have several players on their roster who will need to be re-signed by the Buffalo Sabres in order to avoid free agency.

First, let’s start with the goaltenders for the Rochester Americans.

Both Matt Hackett and Connor Knapp are set to become restricted free agents. Nathan Lieuwen is locked up for one more season, while Andrey Makarov is locked in for two more years. The goaltending situation in Rochester is certainly an interesting one. The injury and call-up issues toward the end of this season gave everyone a lot to think about. Lieuwen was sharp and proved himself a strong contender for an AHL spot. Makarov went from an ECHL goalie to an AHLer to an NHL backup in a time of crisis.

Of course, it’s always better to have more goalies in the system than less. What would the Sabres have done if they didn’t have Knapp and Makarov waiting in the wings of the ECHL, ready to call upon when needed?

Lieuwen definitely deserves a spot on the Amerks next season. Hackett, Knapp and Makarov are a bunch that requires some thought as to where they should end up when the season begins, whether it be in the AHL, ECHL or with another NHL organization entirely.

Rochester Americans forward Luke Adam is also set to become an RFA this summer. Adam has been a back-and-forth presence in the Sabres organization for years. Just when you think he may have earned himself a call-up, he’s passed over. Just when he’s on a hot streak in the AHL, he fails to impress in the NHL.

Could this be the time that the Sabres finally decide not to tender Adam an offer and he moves on to another NHL club?

There’s also Rochester Americans forwards Jamie Tardif and Kevin Porter, set to become unrestricted free agents.

The Sabres signed Tardif to a one-year, two-way deal last August, but he spent the entire season in Rochester. In 51 regular season games, Tardif scored 18 goals and added 19 assists for 37 points on the year.

Porter signed a two-year NHL deal with the Sabres in July 2012. This past season, he had 36 points in 50 games with the Amerks and also saw 12 NHL games with the Sabres.

Meanwhile, defensemen Nick Crawford and Matt Mackenzie will become restricted free agents this offseason; forward Shawn Szydlowski, who spent this season in the ECHL, will also become an RFA. Crawford had 18 points and a plus-5 in 63 games with Rochester. Mackenzie had 10 points, a plus-11 and 84 penalty minutes in 64 games with the Amerks.

Szydlowski spent the season with the Fort Wayne Komets of the ECHL. He had 11 goals and 15 assists for 26 points in 63 regular season games, then went on to average a point-per-game in the playoffs. Szydlowski has struggled to secure a spot in the AHL the past few seasons, falling to the ECHL this year. Could he get a spot on the Amerks next season? Will the Sabres re-sign him?

Other than that, there’s a handful of players on the Rochester Americans who are not members of the Buffalo Sabres organization who are also going to need new contracts in order to join the Amerks in October.

Forward Mike Zigomanis was signed to a one-year AHL contract last season. Luka Vidmar, Brayden Irwin and Nick Tuzzolino were all signed to PTOs during the season. It’s a matter of time until the AHL season begins, so Sabres and Amerks fans will just have to keep an eye on the news headlines to see where these players sign and if they wind up back in Rochester next season.

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