Total Season Stats: 78 GP | 14 G | 15 A | 29 PTS
Contract Status: Four years remaining, $6 million cap hit
In 2016, the Buffalo Sabres strode confidently into the free agent market. At the time, Kyle Okposo was the second-biggest name on the market, behind Steven Stamkos. It was huge for the team, signifying a new era where the best players wanted to come play. Okposo’s best years on the island were with Matt Moulson by his side, and maybe the two of them would rekindle some of that fire. Things were looking up.
At the time, $6 million a season seemed like money well spent. Okposo had eclipsed 60 points twice and 50 points on two other occasions. By standard metrics at the time, he was a responsible, two way player.
Since then, things have…taken a turn. Okposo has dropped out of the top six, for the most part, averaging only 13:47 on the ice per night. Johan Larsson skated 14:18 a night. Vladimir Sobotka, 14:11. Together, the two make just under $6.5 million. One may be able to see where this is headed.
Fans might have considered the 2017-18 season a lost year, with Okposo struggling to recover from concussion symptoms, but then how does one define this substantially worse year, from a production standpoint? The veteran winger dropped from 45 points to 29. He scored fewer all-situation goals, and fewer even strength goals.
It’s easy to look at these numbers and write him off as the ghost of Moulson, never really reaching his potential. Clearly, his production took a dive. To his credit, though, there were significant statistical improvements. His PDO rose three points. His on-ice save percentage jumped from a dismal .885 to a more respectable .914.
Despite being ninth among forwards (20 overall) in average time on ice, Okposo was seventh on the team in shots (147) and shooting percentage (9.5 percent) - low for his career average, but another improvement from last season.
Improvements are good. We like improvements. Unfortunately, Okposo is being outperformed in nearly every category by players like Conor Sheary, who earns half of Okposo’s salary. At $6 million, fans should have reasonable expectations that Okposo can contribute on a top line; instead, Sheary is doing it better, and at even strength.
Okposo’s presence off the ice is meaningful. He’s willing to jump in front of reporters and repeat platitudes about hard work and buying in, which protects some of the younger players from that pressure. It was Okposo who dropped the gloves in a meaningless game after a nasty hit took down a teammate. Foolish, of course; his concussion symptoms returned, and he sat for the last handful of games. Flawed as the idea was, he felt a responsibility to demonstrate leadership in that manner. That means something to a faltering dressing room.
One thing is certain - the Sabres, and Okposo cannot afford another season like the last two. His cost far exceeds his output, even if he has improved mildly. If Okposo can’t give Buffalo more for their money, general manager Jason Botterill will have to find a way to dump an aging anchor with an undesirable salary.
Season Grade: D
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