One pending free agent the Sabres can steal from their Atlantic Division rivals in NHL free agency

The Buffalo Sabres proved to us this season that they are ready to scale up and add more relevant talent from the outside and perhaps familiar talent.

Buffalo Sabres v Detroit Red Wings
Buffalo Sabres v Detroit Red Wings / Gregory Shamus/GettyImages
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Ilya Lyubushkin, Defenseman/Toronto Maple Leafs

Yep, everything makes a full circle, and that would be the case with Ilya Lyubushkin. One reason I’ve been so impressed with Lyubushkin this season has been his ability to bounce back from what was a bad year during his lone outing with the Sabres. 

He looked like a bad fit, but this time around, should he return to the City of Good Neighbors, Lyubushkin would be a clear-cut seventh man in the defensive rotation if Kevyn Adams does not re-sign Jacob Bryson, Henri Jokiharju, and Kale Clague - though the latter would likely remain on a two-way deal if he re-signed.

Lyubushkin wouldn’t play over 15 minutes per contest, close to what we saw during the 2022-23 season, but you could expect him to make a far greater impact if he returned and played in roughly half the games. 

He had just 99 hits and 104 blocks in 68 games with the Blue and Gold, but that’s far below what he’s done this season in Anaheim and, more recently, Toronto. In just 66 contests, the 29-year-old has 155 blocks and 154 hits, showing us that when healthy or when properly utilized, he can be a difference-maker on the third-pairing. 

Sure, he needs to do more than just finish checks and block pucks, but that’s primarily what will make him tough to play against. 

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(Statistics provided by Hockey-Reference as of April 1st)