Breaking down the Sabres five highest-paid players and are they worth it?

The Buffalo Sabres are paying their core players a substantial amount of money to perform well in 2024-25, so let’s break down their respective contracts.
Apr 9, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin (26) skates against the Dallas Stars during the third period at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 9, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin (26) skates against the Dallas Stars during the third period at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports / Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

With quite a few players on the Buffalo Sabres slated to make at least five million dollars in 2024-25, the burning question is whether they’re worth, or will be worth, the lucrative price tag. Regardless of who the player is, signing them to a high-paying contract is always a risk, as injuries and other factors could ultimately lead to a bad contract. 

Other times, the player signs a lucrative seven or even eight-figure deal and subsequently underperforms, as though the one sensational year they enjoyed was an outlier. So, which of the five highest-paid players on the Sabres are, or should be, worth their current contracts, and who will need to prove themselves in 2024-25?

The first player we’ll discuss is a newcomer while the other four have either always been Sabres or they spent most of their pro hockey career with them.  

Jason Zucker/$5 million

Jason Zucker is the newcomer to the group and someone who must play better than he did in 2023-24 for his $5 million deal to be worth it. For one, the Sabres struggled to stay healthy last season, and Zucker missed 13 games with the Arizona Coyotes and Nashville Predators, and that doesn’t even mention the fact he scored 14 goals and logged under 14 minutes per contest. 

Zucker will more than live up to that deal if he can get even remotely close to the 27-goal outing he had a couple of seasons ago. But right now, I’m not counting on it. Sometimes, a player could struggle through a pedestrian regular season and look better in the playoffs, but Zucker had three points, one goal, and 14:18 of average total ice time across six postseason appearances. 

In foresight, Zucker’s $5 million price tag could have been better spent elsewhere, so he’ll have to prove me wrong when he takes the ice as a member of Buffalo. 

Dylan Cozens/$7.1 million

Dylan Cozens is behind the eight-ball in this category, much like Jason Zucker, but the difference is that he’s younger and hasn’t hit his prime yet. That said, heading into his age-23 season, he needs to enter his prime this year, or else his luxurious price tag will start looking more like a bust. 

Right now, I’m neutral on the former seventh-overall pick, as he deserved the long-term deal amidst a breakout 2022-23 campaign that ended in 31 goals and 68 points. But as the team regressed last season, so did Cozens, and one would have hoped to see him take the reins during a turbulent season. 

For Cozens, this one is simple: If he rebounds in 2024-25, his price tag still won’t be completely worth it, but we’ll at least be heading toward bull rather than bear territory. He shouldn’t look at this season and think ‘pressure’; he should be thinking ‘opportunity,’ and if he does, Cozens will be fine. 

Tage Thompson/$7.143 million (rounded up)

While Tage Thompson was no different from the rest of the Sabres lineup and also regressed, it’s fair to ask how much more he would have given had he not suffered an injury early last season against Boston. I’m saying this because when it became clear injuries no longer affected him, Tage played as we would have expected him to, finishing the first part of the 2024 calendar year with 19 goals and 35 points in 43 games. 

Through his first 28 outings, he had just 10 goals, albeit a respectable 21 points, and it was clear the injury was affecting his play. To be real, Tage started looking more like himself during that embarrassing loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, and between December 19th and April 15th, he logged a solid 41 points and 22 goals in that 48-game sample. 

The takeaway? If Tage is 100 percent healthy, he will more than live up to that lofty contract he signed nearly two years ago. Tage must enjoy a better season to prove he turned a corner, but there’s no way anyone can claim he isn’t currently worth the $7.143 he’s making. 

Owen Power/$8.35 million

Owen Power may be one some fans will take issue with, but just as I noted in my defensemen rankings, he played better than many otherwise believe. However, that isn’t what we’re talking about here; the question is whether Power is worth the $8.35 million price tag that will kick in this season. 

He played well last year, but I’ll concede he didn’t play well enough to live up to what was then an upcoming new contract. Yeah, he outplayed the final year of his six-figure deal, but going from $916,667 to $8.35 million is quite the leap. That said, I’m going neutral on this one and would like to see what he makes in Year 1 of that contract this season.

As with Cozens, the pressure shouldn’t be on Power, as with more than enough NHL experience under him, he shouldn’t have much trouble making a noticeable leap. If he does, then fans may start comparing this deal to the one Kevyn Adams bought out.   

Rasmus Dahlin/$11 million

Rasmus Dahlin will have more to live up to than the rest of the Blue and Gold with an eight-figure contract. As the Sabres highest-paid player, perennial career seasons are what we’ll be looking for from Dahlin for this contract to be worth it. 

For three of the five players mentioned in this article, there are question marks beside their names, with only Tage Thompson having my full confidence that his contract is more than worth the current price tag. Dahlin is the second player on this list to boast that same confidence, mainly because he’s more than proven himself with appearances in the NHL All-Star Game, putting up points consistently, and displaying outstanding leadership skills. 

But, as he’s now heading into the thick of his prime at age 24, we’ll need to keep seeing steady improvement on and off the ice for this contract to be worth it by the time it expires. Right now, he’s more than on the right track, but one bad season will change the trajectory of his $11 million deal. 


(Statistics powered by Hockey-Reference, contract information powered by Puck Pedia)