On Thursday we’ll be two weeks away from the start of the NHL season for the Buffalo Sabres. While the majority of the roster is in camp and about to start the preseason, one player remains absent.
Sam Reinhart is one of five restricted free agents that remain unsigned. The other four players are William Nylander, Shea Theodore, Nick Ritchie, and Miles Wood.
Today, we saw two defensemen come off the list by signing bridge contracts with their teams. Josh Morrissey agreed to a two-year, $6.3 million contract ($3.15 million AAV) and Darnell Nurse signed a two-year, $6.4 million contract ($3.2 million AAV).
Both the Sabres and Reinhart were optimistic last week when they were asked about the contract negotiations, yet nothing has been agreed upon at this point. The 2014 second overall pick has missed five days of training camp and counting.
As we cross the days off the calendar, this holdout is not ideal for either side.
Reinhart is missing valuable time to get some familiarity with teammates that could have at least seven new faces in the lineup come October 4. In particular, the opportunity to familiarize himself with Jeff Skinner and Conor Sheary. He’ll likely end up playing on a line with one of those two players in the top six of the lineup. Not to mention he only has six games experience with Casey Mittelstadt.
From the Sabres perspective, if this holdout carries into the regular season it puts a dent into a revamped top six. After adding to the left wing with the Sheary and Skinner trades, the right wing has become the forward position lacking depth.
Outside of Kyle Okposo, who currently is a questionable top six winger, the Sabres don’t have many options. Through the first few days of training camp, Jason Pominville has moved up to playing with Sheary and Mittelstadt. At this point in his career, the 35-year-old winger cannot be expected to play that role if you want to be a competitive hockey team.
Thompson brings some intrigue on the right wing, but it’s uncertain if he’ll make the opening night roster. Even if he does, they may want to ease him into a bottom six depth role to start the season.
When you throw money into the equation it changes the dynamic of the discussion. Of course, both sides want to do what’s best for their side financially. At this point, however, how far is the needle going to move on a contract?
Reinhart and his agent appear ready to run this to the very end (regular season) if necessary.
It wouldn’t be the end of the world if the holdout carried a few games into the regular season, but having said that, it’s important for the Sabres to get off to a decent start this season. Which is something they haven’t been able to do in a while. Not having your top right winger on opening night is less than ideal.
It’s still too early to start a mass panic on the contract situation for Reinhart. Just two years ago Rasmus Ristolainen signed a new deal the day before the season opener. Although he did get a few practices in with the team prior to signing that contract.
If this saga carries into the middle of next week, then it may be time to start worrying. The longer this drags on, the more it hurts both sides.