Speculation swirled around who the Buffalo Sabres would choose to shore up their goaltending situation when free agency signings began on July 13. The Sabres, sitting on more than $32 million in cap space on the eve of free agency, had a number of veteran goalies available.
It came as a surprise when GM Kevyn Adams signed Winnipeg Jets goaltender Eric Comrie, with a two-year, $1.8 million deal. What’s even more astonishing is that the Sabres’ managers had identified Comrie as their top goaltending free agent to pursue.
Adams and his team could have gone after a different goalie with more NHL experience and a longer track record. Instead, they went for a backup goaltender with just 28 games under his belt.
Sabres fans are used to free agents not working out in recent years. Many of the team’s recent signings and trades haven’t brought the level of success managers hoped they would. It’s easy to get the sinking feeling that, once again, Buffalo had all the right cards in their hand but failed to lay them on the table.
However, it’s also possible that Adams didn’t blow it this year. When the Sabres traded for a little-known goaltender named Dominik Hasek in 1992, the Czech goalie had only played 25 NHL games. With an .893 save percentage and a 2.60 GAA, Chicago felt he wasn’t worth keeping. By comparison, Comrie has played 28 games, has a .905 save percentage and a 3.06 GAA.
Before anyone accuses me of being a hockey Nostradamus, I’m not saying that Comrie is destined to be the next Hasek. However, he could play at the same elite level if he keeps his percentages as high as the Dominator did.
Current goaltender Craig Anderson, who also started his career with the Hawks, played 21 games his second season in Chicago and had a .905 save percentage and a GAA of 2.84. UPL, who’s only seen 13 games in his NHL career, enjoys a save percentage of .913 and a 3.08 GAA. Both of these goalies will share the net with Comrie in the Sabres’ upcoming season.
Some of Buffalo’s past goaltenders had comparable statistics in their first years with the Blue and Gold. Ryan Miller only saw 15 games his first Sabres season, but finished .902 and 2.63, respectively. Marty Biron played a mere 6 matchups backing up Hasek in Buffalo’s infamous No Goal season, yet his numbers were .917 and 2.14. Quite often, a goaltender can show their future talent level with not a lot of games on their record.
No doubt, Adams hopes Comrie will show a similar talent level as some of Buffalo’s previous goaltending greats. There’s no guarantee he will, but current stats sometimes hint at how well a player does in subsequent seasons. While fans wait for October, everyone has their fingers crossed that the GM made the right goalie move.