The NHL’s free agency period opens later this week, and the Buffalo Sabres are taking steps to make sure they don’t lose any of their players with value for nothing. The team announced that it has extended qualifying offers to four players: Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Arttu Ruotsalainen, Victor Olofsson & Brett Murray.
Those four players are the only ones in the Sabres organization who are restricted free agents and thus eligible to receive qualifying offers. Meanwhile, across the league, we’ve started to hear rumbles about some big-name players who aren’t receiving qualifying offers - like Chicago’s Dylan Strome - and who will be allowed to become unrestricted free agents later this week.
Luukkonen, 23, is entering what many think is a key season in his development. He’s played 13 NHL games since 2020, and let’s face it: he’s either the future of the Sabres in goaltending, or he isn’t, and this season will help make that distinction clear. Last season, he had a .900 save percentage and 3.28 GAA in 35 games with the AHL’s Rochester Americans. He also appeared in nine NHL games with the Sabres, going 2-5-2 with a .917 save percentage and 2.74 GAA. He’s at the end of his entry-level contract, which had an AAV of $910,833.
Ruotsalainen, 24, is perhaps the most enigmatic name on this list. He’s spent the last two seasons bouncing between Buffalo and Rochester. This past season was a big one for him in the AHL, as he put up 51 points (18-33) in 57 games. Reports earlier this year were that he was looking to play overseas, but now it seems a future with the Sabres organization is possible - and perhaps even preferred. His contract that’s expiring had an AAV of $925,000.
Olofsson, 26, is by far the player with the most NHL experience on this list. After making the jump to North America in 2018-19 and spending most of that season with the Amerks, he’s appeared in 188 NHL games since. He’s proven himself an offensive threat, with 127 points (55-72) in 188 games and is at the end of a contract with an AAV of $3.05 million.
Finally, Murray spent most of last season with the Amerks but is a sizable defenseman looking to make that NHL jump. In 52 games with Rochester, the winger had 32 points, including 15 goals, and added six points in 10 playoff games. He also skated in 19 NHL games with the Sabres, putting up six points and accruing 23 penalty minutes. His previous contract had an AAV of $775,000.