The Buffalo Sabres have too many defensemen on one-way contracts and a top six forward who will likely miss the first half of the season.
The Buffalo Sabres can’t realistically open the 2023-24 season with their current lineup thanks to the number of defensemen on one-way contracts. While it’s true that they can (and may have to) place them on waivers and send them to the AHL if they clear waivers, like an Anders Bjork situation, ideally, general manager Kevyn Adams should make every effort to get something out of these players.
There is also the fact that Buffalo could use another forward IF they don’t plan on inserting a prospect/rookie into the lineup. However, with the expectations for the Blue and Gold higher this season, perhaps it may be ideal to go with a veteran as opposed to a call up.
3 ideal roster moves for the Buffalo Sabres
1 – Trade a defenseman (or two) for a forward
You should know me well enough by now that I don’t often name or team-drop, and that will be the case here. Instead, I’ll just say Buffalo should look to trade one of their bottom four defensemen – Henri Jokiharju, Riley Stillman, Jacob Bryson, or even Ilya Lyubushkin, for a forward capable of playing on the bottom six.
You will likely see either Casey Mittelstadt or even Victor Olofsson skating in for the injured Jack Quinn, but that could leave a void in the bottom six. My ideal forward would be a player who can win faceoffs, and place them onto the fourth or even the third line.
2 – Sign a forward (if they can’t/don’t acquire one via trade)
I did name-drop a few forwards in a recent article, but since they are all still free agents, it’s fair game. If they don’t or can’t acquire one via trade, Buffalo should look into signing one of them if they want to bring more experience to the team, which could result in a shorter overall learning curve instead of calling up a prospect.
In short, Adams needs to ask himself what would give his team the best chance of making the playoffs. Further, adding one more forward to the lower lines either via signing or trade would also better allow for an aging veteran like Kyle Okposo to rotate in and out more, especially when Quinn returns.
3 – Trade a defenseman for a draft pick
I know I’ve said it a few times but I’ll say it as often as I need to: Never make moves that sacrifice too many future assets in the process. The Sabres must keep the prospect pool stocked to the best of their ability, and one way to contribute to the cause would be to trade someone who they have in excess for a draft pick.
For example, suppose the Sabres traded Henri Jokiharju for a forward (I’m just laying out a bare minimum here and not an actual trade package). Perhaps they can flip someone like Bryson or Stillman for a late-round pick, which would at least get rid of the excess defensemen with one-way contracts.
Source: Buffalo Sabres mailbag: Sorting through glaring roster questions after free agency by Lance Lysowski, BuffaloNews.com