Buffalo Sabres: A Look Ahead At Free Agency


Buffalo Sabres general manager Tim Murray did what he said he would: moved out some of the team’s impending free agents and got pieces in return. He wasn’t able to move everyone, but Murray did unload a few players who will hit the unrestricted free agent market this summer.

Chris Stewart, Torrey Mitchell, Drew Stafford, Michal Neuvirth and Jhonas Enroth are all set to become unrestricted free agents this summer. In exchange for those guys, the Sabres got: an AHL prospect (Jack Nevins), a 2016 7th-rounder, a 2017 2nd-rounder, two conditional 2016 3rd-rounder, a goaltender with a year left on his contract after this season, another goalie who becomes a UFA on July 1, a goaltending prospect, Zach Bogosian and Evander Kane.

The Sabres also got a 2016 5th-round pick in exchange for pending RFA Brian Flynn.

So what happens next?

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Is it out of the question that the Buffalo Sabres could offer sheet Flynn, or try to bring back Enroth or Mitchell this summer?

Realistically, the Sabres only have Chad Johnson for goaltending at the NHL level next season. Lindback is set to be a UFA, while Matt Hackett and Nathan Lieuwen are both RFAs. The team needs to pick up another solid netminder for the 2015-2016 season. Many have thrown around the name of 23-year-old Matt O’Connor from Boston University as a highly touted collegiate free agent. Could the Sabres bring him in to fill the gap?

Though GMTM was able to move some pieces, there are still some players on the Buffalo Sabres roster who will hit free agency this summer, including forward Matt Ellis.

Ellis, 33, has been with the Sabres organization since 2008 but has spent the past few seasons playing largely at the AHL level and providing a veteran presence in Rochester. The Sabres organization seems to like him, but it’s a matter of figuring out where he fits in the team moving forward.

On the blueline, Andrej Meszaros, Andre Benoit and Tyson Strachan are all set to become UFAs this summer —  and they could all be moving on from the Sabres.

Who’s left: Josh Gorges, Rasmus Ristolainen, Nikita Zadorov, Mike Weber and Zach Bogosian. You’ve also got Mark Pysyk, Jake McCabe and Chad Ruhwedel developing in the AHL. Pysyk undoubtedly deserves a chance at a full-time spot in the NHL next season. There will also be some D-men on the free agent market this summer that could be tempting, such as Mike Green and Christian Ehrhoff.

My thoughts: let Meszaros and Benoit walk. Those spots are easily filled by the younger guys growing in the system.

Maybe try to bring Enroth back. You need a good goaltender going forward. Even with the potential addition of a guy like Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel, combined with Sam Reinhart, won’t be enough if you don’t have a solid guy between the pipes. It’s a spot that undoubtedly needs to be filled.

I’d say try to bring Neuvirth back, as he was playing incredibly well with the Sabres prior to the trade, but after his comments trashing the “tank” idea…. I’m not so sure he’d want to come back.

The Sabres also have a number of RFAs to consider this summer. Johan Larsson, Philip Varone and Zac Dalpe, all currently up with Buffalo, will be RFAs. So will Mikhail Grigorenko, Pysyk, Tim Schaller, Lieuwen, Jordan Samuels-Thomas, Jerome Leduc, Kevin Sundher and Jerry D’Amigo. At least a handful of these guys will return and stay with Rochester, while a few – Pysyk, Grigorenko?, etc. – may wind up in a solid spot with Buffalo next season.

Buffalo Sabres general manager Tim Murray made a lot of moves at this year’s NHL trade deadline, but he still has a lot of moves up his sleeve with the upcoming free agent market. We could see a whole new look Buffalo Sabres when the team hits the ice in October.

Next: Poll: Buffalo Sabres Trade Deadline

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