This past season, four goaltenders appeared in action for the Buffalo Sabres: Robin Lehner, Chad Johnson, Linus Ullmark and Adam Wilcox.
Now looking ahead, the Sabres’ goaltending situation next season should look a little different.
Lehner is a restricted free agent, while Johnson is an unrestricted free agent. Wilcox is also set to become a UFA this summer, while Ullmark has one more year left on his current contract.
Based on the last few games of the season, and GM Jason Botterill’s post-season presser, it’s clear that the Sabres plan to go with Ullmark going forward, in the NHL. It’s a choice that makes a lot of sense: he’s grown within the organization, has been moving his way up through the ranks and doing solid work in Rochester, and it’s about time he got his chance at an NHL gig.
Botterill said in his press conference Wednesday, point-blank, that the team is “very excited about Linus Ullmark being one of our two goalies next year.” He added that the Sabres will make a decision on the other goalie in the next few months.
All signs point to both Johnson and Lehner being gone.
Johnson, in his end-of-season comments, essentially said that if he had known the Sabres were going to have such a rough season, he would’ve signed elsewhere.
“I wouldn’t have put my career in a situation like that after having a lot of success and doing well,” he said.
Johnson didn’t rule out possibly re-signing with the Sabres, but said that he’d have to “see the change” to come back.
Lehner, who missed the end of the season, does not need surgery. However, it still remains to be seen where he’ll end up next year. But considering Botterill’s comment about Ullmark, it realistically seems like Lehner will end up elsewhere.
So if it’s not Lehner or Johnson, who else could it be? Looking at the free agent pool, it’s hit-or-miss. Petr Mrazek will be an RFA Eddie Lack, a UFA. Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck (RFA) could be an interesting option, with a 2.38 GAA in 43 games this season. Of course, the RFA situation would be trickier, but it doesn't mean it isn't worth pursuing.
How about Nashville’s Juuse Saros, who will be an RFA and is only 22 years old?
Of course, it also depends what exactly the Sabres are looking for. Are they thinking that Ullmark will step in and be the new starting goaltender, and are thus looking for someone to back him up and carry maybe half, or less, of the workload? Or will they carry Ullmark as the backup with the right guy in front?
As Botterill said, the Sabres’ goaltending has to improve. The question now is: what is he going to do to help it improve?
Who would you like to see the Sabres nab to play alongside Ullmark?
This poll is closed