Buffalo Sabres general Kevyn Adams signed two key pieces of the team this past weekend, both to team-friendly deals that are good in both the immediate future and looking further ahead. Adams and the Sabres have avoided arbitration with two of their biggest free agents, signing Sam Reinhart to a one-year contract with an AAV of $5.2 million and Linus Ullmark to a one-year deal worth $2.6 million.
A $5.2 million contract for Reinhart is both affordable for the Sabres, and a respectable raise for the forward. He earned $3.65 million AAV in each year of his last contract, which was a two-year deal. While I would’ve liked to see Reinhart get more than a one-year, “bridge” type of contract, it’s acceptable and gives both sides a chance to see where the chips fall next summer. Taylor Hall, of course, will also be a free agent next summer, so the Sabres will have some big signings to make when that time comes around.
I was honestly quite surprised to see Ullmark sign for under $3 million - but pleasantly so. Given other recent goaltender signings, I wasn’t sure what to expect. When the arbitration numbers came out, many said Ullmark’s camp went too high; his ask was $4.1 million. But that’s what the player does: aim high.
Conversely, I think the Sabres went too low, at just $1.8 million, it was only a small raise over this past season. It’s a pleasant surprise to see the two sides avoid arbitration and settle somewhere in the middle, particularly given that Ullmark has been growing into a bigger role with the Sabres and should take on a lot of the playing time this coming season.
These two key signings by Kevyn Adams and his group, combined with the get of Taylor Hall earlier in the offseason, are important - and the numbers look good. Although there’s still plenty of reason to doubt a rookie GM who made little splash in signing guys like Tobias Rieder and Cody Eakin, getting Ullmark and Reinhart at reasonable, team-friendly numbers is undeniably impressive.
With the new contracts, Ullmark will become a UFA next summer, while Reinhart will still be a restricted free agent. Of course, there’s also plenty of time between now and then to sign either or both to longer-term contracts, in addition to seeing what the market looks like then. Not to look too far ahead, but the Sabres will also have a slew of free agent defensemen after the 2020-21 season, including Rasmus Dahlin (RFA).
Adams and his staff have a lot of work ahead of them, but getting these two signings done with Ullmark and Reinhart is certainly a good continuation of the energy coming off the Hall signing. The Sabres now have just over $6.5 million in cap space available. Next up: they still need to sign Victor Olofsson, whose arbitration hearing is set for November 4. In addition, they need to account for up to $3,487,500 in performance bonuses for Dahlin and Henri Jokiharju.