Recently, SBNation’s NHL hub did a series on which contracts are the best for every team and the worst for every team. Overall, I think they did a pretty good job, but I expect we can have some debate on the players they chose for the Sabres.
The Sabres are actually in a unique situation in that they have very few players locked up long term. In fact, only five players - O’Reilly, Okposo, Ristolainen, Bogosian, and Scandella - have contracts that extend beyond the next two seasons. Of course, that will change very shortly, as Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, and possibly some others will soon be up for serious extensions. Those entry-level contracts are exempt from this list, because obviously Jack Eichel being paid less than a million dollars next season is the best deal imaginable.
Let’s dive in and explore the options.
SBN’s choice: Ryan O’Reilly -$7.5 million cap hit, signed through 2022-2023
I think this is probably the choice I’d agree with. While it is on the pricier side - remember, it was the largest contract in team history when it was signed - O’Reilly brings so much to the table for the Sabres that it makes the cap hit worth taking. The fact that he’s only 26 and will be 32 at the end of the contract makes the term a very easy pill to swallow as well.
Other options: Rasmus Ristolainen, Jake McCabe, Kyle Okposo, Johan Larsson
First, the defense. Ristolainen’s contract with a cap hit of $5.4 million through 2022 is great...if you’re convinced he is (or will soon become) a true #1 defenseman. If not, then it’s not a bad deal, just an average one. Jake McCabe might have the best price-to-TOI ratio, being paid just $1.6 million for the next two seasons. That’s a heck of a bargain for a 23-year old who often played top pair minutes last year.
As for the forwards, Okposo’s deal is similar to O’Reilly, in that his $6 million cap hit is high, but very proportional to what he offers on the ice, which is dynamic offensive production. Okposo is signed through age 34, however, so that might be a slight knock against the deal. We’ve got some Johan Larsson fans here, and his two-year deal for $1.475 million per year looks pretty sweet if you’re a believer in Larry.
SBN’s choice: Matt Moulson - $5 million cap hit, signed through 2018-19
Ah, Moulson. You were signed and most of us were optimistic, then you had an OK year, then a horrible year in which your GM called out your training habits, then last year got us all excited with your power play goals early on before falling off a cliff. At this point, and barring some sort of Housley magic or Hyperbolic Time Chamber training, Moulson is little more than a power play specialist who has to play in the bottom six, and probably as few 5-on-5 minutes as possible. At least his contract is only for two more years?
Other choice: Zach Bogosian
There’s really no other argument for anyone aside from Bogosian, the Matt Moulson of the defense. Not in age or slowness, as Bogo is a pretty good skater, but in the fact that he has offered so little for an even bigger cap hit and term than Moulson. I will admit, there is a small chance that Phil Housley and his defensive wizardry can get a bit more out of Bogosian, which would make this contract slightly easier to swallow, but aside from that, there’s a reason this guy’s contract is called “an albatross.”
Did our SBN overlords get it right, or do you have different choices for best and worst contract? Let us know in the comments.