Nearly seven hours have passed since the NHL’s free agency period officially opened, and thus far, the Buffalo Sabres have added new five pieces to their organization. Over the past few days, they also re-signed a handful of players & are undoubtedly talking with others, including RFA Ukko-Pekka Lukkonen’s camp.
No, the Sabres certainly haven’t made as much of a splash in free agency as some of their divisional rivals. The Detroit Red Wings added Andrew Copp (5 years, $5.63 million AAV) and David Perron (2 years, $4.75 million AAV); the Florida Panthers added Colin White, Marc Staal and Eric Staal (1 year each).
The Toronto Maple Leafs signed Nicolas Aube-Kubel (1 year, $1 million) and Ilya Samsonov (1 year, $1.8 million) while the Ottawa Senators made a big move in signing Claude Giroux (3 years, $6.5 million AAV). Then there’s the Tampa Bay Lightning, who re-signed Mikhail Sergachev, Anthony Cirelli and Erik Cernak each to eight-year extensions.
It’s easy to look at those moves and compare them to what the Sabres have done so far and be, well, disappointed. But Sabres GM Kevyn Adams stressed that he isn’t looking at what other teams, even divisional rivals, are doing. He’s focused on finding his team, and he’s happy with the signings they’ve made so far.
To summarize, here are the signings the Sabres have made so far:
- Eric Comrie (goaltender), 2 years, $1.8 million AAV
- Ilya Lyubushkin (defense), 1 year, $2.75 million
- Kale Clague (defense), 1 year, $750,000 (2-way)
- Jeremy Davies (defense), 1 year, $750,000 (2-way)
- Chase Priskie (defense), 1 year, $800,000 (2-way)
“We feel really good about the way the day’s played out,” Adams said. “We came into today, well yesterday, actually, it started with re-signing Vinnie [Hinostroza]. Felt like that was a really big one for us. We had a plan coming into this second phase of the offseason after the draft & feel really strongly that the staff did a great job in executing the plan. Feel really good about yesterday and really, really good about today.”
The Sabres had been thinking about Comrie for several months and planned to target him in free agency. Of course, as Adams said, just because you want a player doesn’t mean the player wants you. In this case, it worked out. He also noted that while there were other goaltenders out there in free agency, those are guys that you pretty much know what you’re getting. With Comrie, he noted that they see upside in a player that wants this opportunity and the chance to run with it:
“The scouting staff, our goaltender coaches and Sam Ventura & his crew were aligned on this player & felt that he’s one of these players that we feel has the opportunity to take the next step. He’s very talented,” Adams said.
“From a numbers perspective, he has a strong body of work with what he’s done in the American League [AHL] and then his opportunity when he has played in the NHL. He just hasn’t had a ton of opportunity. For me, this was a goaltender that we feel is right there on the cusp of taking that step. That’s why he was our guy we were going to target,” he added.
Adams also stressed that the Comrie signing doesn’t indicate anything negative about Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen’s future in Buffalo. Adams said he called UPL right after the signing to speak with him and noted a focus on not rushing him to the NHL.
While Comrie fills the opening goaltending spot in Buffalo, Lyubushkin helps shore up the team’s blueline. His signing also got the Sabres to the salary cap floor.
“We really felt that his skill set fit in with what we were looking for,” Adams said. He plays a hard game, he’s a bigger guy. He’s solid, he can kill penalties. He can play with any type of player. We just really felt that with the D we have, the young D that we have and the skill that we have, he’d be a good fit.”
Clague, Davies and Priskie are all depth signings to help bolster Rochester’s blueline, but also to provide options for the Sabres. As Adams noted, a team can go through 10 or 11 defensemen in a season and it’s important to have that depth to pull from when needed.
After the initial first batch of signings, the Sabres currently have 39 contracts signed for the 2022-23 season. Their projected cap hit is $62,145,834, with $20,354,166 in space remaining.