Buffalo Sabres showed zero sense of urgency in free agency

While the Atlantic Division made some blockbuster moves, the Buffalo Sabres added a so-so scorer, fourth-liners, and organizational depth.
Apr 23, 2024; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan McDonagh (27) and defenseman Roman Josi (59) and forward Jason Zucker (16) and forward Colton Sissons (10) celebrate Sissons’ goal against the Vancouver Canucks during the second period in game two of the first round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 23, 2024; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan McDonagh (27) and defenseman Roman Josi (59) and forward Jason Zucker (16) and forward Colton Sissons (10) celebrate Sissons’ goal against the Vancouver Canucks during the second period in game two of the first round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports / Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
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When the Tampa Bay Lightning signed Jake Guentzel to a lucrative deal as June faded into July, they became the second team to land a blow to the Sabres. Earlier in June, the Ottawa Senators acquired Linus Ullmark from the Boston Bruins, which didn’t help matters for Buffalo. Ullmark is an outstanding goaltender whose presence will keep the Sens from allowing 281-plus goals for the second year in a row and he makes them a much better team overall.

Steven Stamkos didn’t return to Tampa, but it won’t matter now, nor will the flurry of moves the Lightning recently made matter. Even without Stamkos and Mikhail Sergachev in the lineup, the Lightning have Guentzel, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Anthony Cirelli, Victor Hedman, and Ryan McDonagh, meaning their core is still every bit as dangerous. 

Meanwhile, you saw former Sabre Sam Reinhart return, expectedly, might I add, to the Florida Panthers. The Toronto Maple Leafs improved defensively with Chris Tanev and goaltender Anthony Stolarz, while the Bruins look like legitimate Stanley Cup contenders after adding Nikita Zadorov and Elias Lindholm

For Kevyn Adams and the Sabres, a team that just bought out Jeff Skinner’s contract, this meant one thing: Do something! Buffalo is a team that hasn’t been to the playoffs in 13 years, and already, they need to contend with the Bruins, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Stanley Cup-winning Florida Panthers, the Lightning, and you can even throw the Red Wings in there, if not even the Senators. So, what does Kevyn Adams do?

Kevyn Adams should have had no choice but to add a big name to the Sabres

Overall, I wasn’t impressed with who Kevyn Adams added to the lineup, with Jason Zucker clocking in as the prize free agent signing. In Zucker’s defense, he did find the net 27 times in 2022-23, and he also snagged a career-high 33 goals during his time with the Minnesota Wild in 2017-18, but overall, Zucker wasn’t quite the middle-six player you want with seemingly the entire Atlantic Division getting better. 

No, the Detroit Red Wings didn’t do much, but they re-signed Patrick Kane and brought in a couple of stopgaps at goaltender, plus the rather intriguing Erik Gustafsson. But as far as last season goes, they were the ones on the brink of a playoff berth, not the Sabres. 

Adams beefed up the lower lines with Sam Lafferty and Nicolas Aube-Kubel, both of whom will make the Sabres a much, much more physical team heading into 2024-25. Lafferty and Aube-Kubel combined for nearly 350 hits last season, and their additions provide a stark contrast to what we were used to seeing during the Don Granato era, so Adams gets credit there. 

Still, we all should have expected more than Jason Zucker for a team that should have had a little more sense of urgency. The Sabres needed a consistent scorer on the top-six, and Zucker is someone who won’t consistently produce, and that was something the Blue and Gold needed. 

But at this point, it’s all about what the team looks like on paper, so we won’t know for sure until October rolls around. That said, for the sake of this organization and its fanbase, I hope I’m wrong about what was an uninspiring free agent frenzy. 

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