Potential Offseason Acquisitons for the Sabres in the Summer of 2022

It's that time of year again. The summer is almost here, and the NHL offseason is right around the corner. While this ended up surprisingly being a season many didn't want to end, the Sabres left many fans excited for the upcoming season, with as much hope as they have had in a long time. With that being said, the Sabres are poised to make some key additions via trade or free agency to help get this club over the top.

The Sabres are entering the offseason with a couple pressing needs. First, they need to solve goaltending, which if they don't, it could hinder the team's chances at trying to make a post season push. Second, they need to find another right shot defenseman who can play in their top four. The Sabres also should look to add help for the penalty kill, and preferably should at least take a look at a good two way forward. Adding a veteran forward with strong two-way capabilities also holds true if the team chooses to move on from Victor Olafsson in the offseason. While Jack Quinn could be poised to do a lot of what Olafsson already does, the Sabres could bolster the top nine with a player who can bring more to the table. But, at the same time, I will have no issue with keeping Olafsson around. While he may be perceived as a one-trick pony, that's still a pretty nice trick he does.

Here is a list of players the Sabres should take a look at in the offseason.

Reilly Smith, LW/RW, Vegas Golden Knights

If you don't know a ton about Smith, you probably at least recognize his name as being apart of trade rumors for Jack Eichel. It is possible the Sabres did have some interest in Smith, but it could be speculated that the fact that he was an expiring contract, and that fact that he wasn't Alex Tuch made it unappealing to Buffalo. As an unrestricted free agent however, Smith is a guy that could work if you can get him on the right deal. What he brings to the table is he's one of those guys who tends to go underappreciated on most teams. He's one of the better defensive forwards in the game, and a strong penalty killer. He's also been considered one of their best players in the dressing room and is indeed a "culture guy". Reilly Smith is also a very intelligent player. For a young team like the Sabres, he could work on a line with a couple of the Sabres younger centerman like Cozens or Mittelstadt, and maybe a second young winger and be a glue guy and safety net. He's also not a soft player by any means, he does have a touch of grit to his game, and he's also a guy who can easily be a 20 goal/40-50 point guy for the Sabres. The Sabres do need to see some improvement on the penalty kill, and Smith checks all the boxes in that department. On the downside, he is 31, and I would not go more than four years for Smith on the term.

Ondej Palat LW/RW Tampa Bay Lightning

Palat is another guy, like Smith who tends to go underappreciated for a lot of the little things he does. He's another guy who is not easy to play against, good defensively, and brings some grit to the table. He plays hard, and is a very smart player who always seems to be in the right position. Did I mention he has two Stanley Cup rings? In Tampa, he has typically been a guy who has been a great complimentary guy for the high end offensive players on the lightning. In Buffalo, he could have a similar role here as a savvy veteran presence who brings hard work, and strong two-way play to whatever line he plays on. Like Smith, I probably wouldn't want to go more than four years here. If the Sabres decide to move on from Victor Olafsson in the offseason to make room for someone like Jack Quinn, they should look to bring in someone who brings more to the table in terms of a well-rounded game.

Nicolas Deslauriers RW Minnesota Wild

Deslauriers is a player whom I have always liked as a fighter/ fourth liner, and would be an upgrade over John Hayden. He also was apart of an interesting trade tree that would end up helping the Tampa Bay Lightning obtain one of their key defensive stalwarts. He was originally acquired by the Sabres in one of Tim Murray's first deadline moves, when he sent Brayden McNabb with two second round picks, to the LA Kings for Hudson Fasching and Nic Deslauriers. One of those second round picks LA acquired would later become Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman, Eric Cernak. Cernak would be traded to the Tampa Bay lightning for Ben Bishop, and he would become a fixture. Deslauriers would be shipped to the Montreal Canadiens in 2017 for defenseman Zach Redmond. Since being traded from the Sabres in 2017, Deslauriers has become one of the NHL's top enforcers, and is also capable of sliding into a fourth line role and playing on your penalty kill, unlike John Hayden. Every team can always use a little more grit and toughness, and the abilty to kill penalties adds a little more value to the lineup.

Scott Mayfield, RHD New York Islanders

Mayfield is a valuable, towering, 6'5 defensive defenseman, who adds plenty of toughness to the blue line. On true contending teams, he's best suited as a third pair defenseman, but on the Sabres as well as the majority of other NHL clubs, he can play a top four role for you. He plays an in your face style and his mobility is average at best. He plays a physical, stay-at-home shutdown role, and paired with Owen Power, he would not be an easy player to play against.
He's signed to a very team friendly deal at 1.45 million for one more year.

What would it cost? The Islanders will be looking to add scorers, and Victor Olafsson is available, and they are also looking to add more mobility on the blueline. Jacob Bryson in a package could make sense. The Sabres also have a later first round pick from Florida, and the 41st overall selection in the 2022 NHL Draft. Mayfield is experienced enough to be a strong mentor for Owen Power, and the two could compliment each other quite well. Power and Mayfield would not be an easy pair to play against.

P.K Subban, RHD, New Jersey Devils

Subban has fallen off a cliff since being traded from the Predators to the Devils three years ago, he has lost a step, but he is still worth taking a look at in free agency. He's been better under Lindy Ruff, than Jon Hynes, but he's also seen is role and minutes reduced since the arrivals of Dougie Hamilton and Ryan Graves last summer. Subban may not be ideal in a role to be paired with Owen Power. If Subban is brought in and there are no other defenseman acquired, he could be suited for a bottom pair role with second power play opportunites. The Sabres could use help in that area as well. Don Granato has had an interesting effect on reviving the careers of Kyle Okposo and Jeff Skinner, maybe he can do the same for Subban. He should be cheap this offseason.

Mark Pysyk, Craig Anderson, Malcom Subban, Buffalo Sabres UFA's

Pysyk is a fantastic locker room guy, and his teammates love him. He's a culture guy for sure, and fits into what the Sabres are doing here. You won't find a better depth defenseman to bring back to the Sabres this offseason. The same can be said for Craig Anderson.

I like bringing Craig Anderson back next season, but for me, it's role that we bring him back in. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen will likely get every opportunity to be the 1A goalie next season. I like the idea of bringing Anderson back, but at he same time, we need to be realistic here. There is no questioning the impact his knowledge and experience can have on UPL, however he still will be 41 in a couple weeks, and 41-year goaltenders will come with durability concerns.

For a team that really wants to make a jump next season into playoff contention, the Sabres cannot be without a reliable second goaltender. An Anderson-UPL tandem will still bring more questions than answers. Can UPL be trusted and make the jump, and can Anderson stay healthy and available? I personally like Anderson better as a third goalie on the roster, not because I don't like the player or think he can't get it done, but because I would be extremely concerned about the durability. He may retire, and eventhough he may capable of being a high quality backup, I still would love to have him back as a third goalie on the roster, similar to how Washington had him around behind Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanacek.

Many have already mentioned Subban as a possibility as the Amerks top goalie next season. He is a former first round pick who didn't quite live up to his draft status becoming an NHL journeyman, but if he cannot find a one-way deal with an NHL club, a two-way deal with the Sabres could work out quite well and provide the Sabres will solid goaltending depth. Dustin Tokarski could be an option as well, but he may be reluctant to sign a two-way deal knowing he could be destined to returned to Rochester given the Sabres could and should look for upgrades.

Casey DeSmith, Pittsburgh Penguins

Over the last few years, there have been plenty of Pittsburgh connections to the Sabres, and this is no different. Former Penguins executives Jason Karmanos and Sam Ventura are both here, and could be appreciative of DeSmith's presence in the Sabres goaltending pipeline as one of the NHL's top backups. DeSmith got off to a slow start this season, but he still turned it around after the new year and turned in numerous solid performances. He is going to miss the rest of the playoffs due to core-muscle surgery, but he managed to turn in a 48 save, triple over time performance in game one against the NY Rangers. He shouldn't cost too much to sign in free agency, and 96 games of starting experience as one of the top backups in the league to the table, and has never had a season with a save percentage below .912. He's always been called upon when ever his counterparts like Matt Murray or Tristian Jarry go into rough stretches and flounder.

Braden Holtby, Dallas Stars

Holtby has pretty much revived his career in Dallas after struggling the previous two seasons. He brings over 500 games of starting experience to the table including 96 career playoff games, more than double that of Craig Anderson. He also has a Stanley Cup on his resume, and is a five time NHL all-star, William Jennings and Veznia trophy winner. He certainly fits the role of a 1B goalie who can be a veteran mentor, especially if Anderson decides to hang them up this summer. The Sabres do not want to bring in a goaltender that will block any of their young goaltenders path to the NHL and significant playing time, and Holtby checks all the boxes here.

Connor Murphy, RHD, Chicago Blackhawks

Murphy just signed a contract extension with the Blackhawks, and will have a no-trade clause that will go in effect after July first, so this would most likely need to be a draft day deal. Like Mayfield, Murphy is a physically imposing, stay-at home defenseman, but he is a better skater than Mayfield. He is capable of playing 20 minutes a night in a shutdown role, and is also the top penalty killing defenseman on the Blackhawks. He's also another guy who is familiar with coach Don Granato, from his time as an assistant coach with the Blackhawks.

He's also a great leader in the locker room, and the kind of guy who you want matching up against opposing team's top players. He is a little younger than Mayfield, and he will have a four year extension, worth 4.4 million per season. The only problem is that the Sabres will need to part with one of their firsts or maybe even a prospect like Ryan Johnson (probably not both though), to get the ball rolling.

Sean Walker, RHD, Los Angeles Kings

Walker had an unfortunate end to his season when he tore his ACL last October. Prior to his injury, Walker was a decent two-way defenseman who could play on a second pair or be a very strong bottom pair guy. He is also capable of leading out the second power play unit. He is a little undersized at 5'11, 196lbs, Walker provides decent value for his salary (2.6m for two more years) and potential role on the Sabres, and he shouldn't cost the team too much to acquire. He's probably worth around a third round pick. I wouldn't target Walker as a primary guy to pair with Owen Power or to boost a top four, but I would be intrigued with him on the third pair and potentially the second power play. The Kings may not have room for Walker and could look to trade him this offseason.

Frank Nazar, RW/C University of Michigan

While he may not be in the NHL for a couple years, Nazar is my mock to the Sabres at ninth overall. The top defenseman in the NHL Simon Nemec, could be long gone by the time the Sabres pick. David Jiricek could also be gone. After those two guys are gone, there is a drop off in the talent for defenseman. There will be plenty of high quality forwards on the board. Some of those guys include, Finnish center, Brad Lambert, gritty left winger Cutter Gauthier, Finnish center Johnathan Lekkerimaki. My personal favorite however is Michigan commit Frank Nazar. Nazar is a versatile center/right wing, who has a high chance to be their at pick nine. The only downside is his size. He's only 5'9, but he plays a sound two-way game, and is one of the best skaters in the class. In fact, aside from his skating, his defensive abilities are also stand out. Despite only being 5'9, he's not afraid to go to the net, in fact, he makes a home there. While he could see a considerable amount of time at center for Michigan over the next year or two, it is possible he ends up on the right wing in the pros. However, the positional versatility would still be immensely valuable to the Sabres.

Additional Notes on the 2022 NHL Draft

One thing the Sabres must be wary of is spending too much draft capital. For the Sabres to have long term success, they will need depth, and a lot that depth will come through the NHL Draft. The Sabres have done a respectable job drafting over the past four years. As more young guys get called up to the Sabres, they will need to replenish the depth in the farm system. While some spending of capital may be plausible, including one of their four top 41 picks this year, and one of their three seconds next season, they should probably avoid doing anything too crazy, although I feel most fans feel it's reasonable to part with the Florida Panthers first, or the 41st overall pick.

This is a FanPost written by a member of the community. It does not necessarily express the views or opinions of Die By The Blade.