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2024 Buffalo Sabres Offseason: The Time Has Come

Mar 26, 2024; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Vegas Golden Knights right wing Jonathan Marchessault (81) skates with the puck during the second period against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

This is a FanPost written by OlympusVII.

It is time.

The much-anticipated “Graduation Year” is upon us, and the passing of the torch will commence this off-
season. With vets such as Kyle Okposo and Zemgus Girgensons moving on, this signals the hand-off
many of us have been waiting for, and the winds of change are gusting through Buffalo.

Transactions are afoot and while it may seem futile to buy into such a narrative given the trigger shyness
we are used to, you can bet your bottom dollar that Sabres GM Kevyn Adams will be making some
legitimate moves in the wake of this long-anticipated changing-of-the-guard.

With possible flux at the coaching level as a major off-season topic, this piece will focus on off-season
trades and roster moves, with a result showing what I believe this roster can look like on opening night.


Jiri Kulich – Buffalo Sabres
Two productive and formative seasons in Rochester have served Kulich well, giving his precocious frame
and natural athleticism the opportunity to acclimate to the pro game. Last year he was given offensive
zone time and powerplay shifts, facilitating the goal-scoring confidence a talented young forward like
him needs. And this year? He and Rosen have been purposefully placed into the gauntlet by Head
Coach Seth Appert, with d-zone faceoffs, top-line matchups, and two-way game management scenarios
on the regular. Within the throes of such a challenge, Kulich thrived, putting together a 38-point
campaign, with 21 goals and 17 assists thus far in 51 games.

This was an outstanding 2-year sequence for both players, both from a performance and confidence
standpoint. Rochester sits 3 rd in the Northern Division, and they can clinch a playoff berth later on today
with a win in Bridgeport. I think we all look forward to seeing what Kulich can do in the Calder Cup
playoffs, especially after scoring 7 goals and putting up 11 points in 12 games last season.

Kulich will arrive at Training Camp with a mission, and he will not be denied. His urgency to flourish at
the next level is apparent and he will make the decision for Sabres brass easy, assigning him a roster
spot, on the spot.

Isak Rosen – Buffalo Sabres
Similar to Kulich, Rosen has been putting the axe to the grindstone in Rochester, using his high-IQ game,
sticky puck possession style, and crafty handling to further enhance his creativity and push his game
outside his comfort zone. Notching 41 points in 61 games for the Amerks this year, he has 25 assists
and, as advertised, serves as the creative director for whatever line he occupies.

He will have some mental lessons to learn at the NHL level, but his refinement and compete will mix well
with his manipulative style of play. His hockey IQ will serve as a useful safety net, helping him earn a
spot in the bottom 6 where he will showcase his existing talent, while being able to cut his teeth.
Surrounding such players with high-value, veteran forwards will not only facilitate this promotion, but
make it look brilliant.

Ryan Johnson – Buffalo Sabres
Last offseason I penned a fangirl post on RyJo, predicting he would be a standout on the backend by
showcasing his promise and elite skating ability. He did that this past year, showing up on the NHL
roster in streaks and demonstrating advanced defensive acumen, proficiency in puck movement, along
with a willingness to engage in proactive neutral zone transitions. He is an important piece for the
future of Buffalo’s vaunted defensive core, and his developmental advancements will facilitate another
roster move to free up cap space and put Buffalo in the best position possible.

Matthew Savoie – Rochester Americans
While the push from Matt Savoie continues in the WHL, he will remain in the development phase as a
lynchpin for Rochester in 2024-25. Savoie will work on his durability and add muscle this offseason,
preparing himself for the next level enroute to the NHL. Many believe he can and should make the
Sabres roster; that is certainly possible, but considering the following, especially in the face of other
prospects moving through the system as planned, my estimation has him putting in the work with the
Amerks this coming year – something that will serve him and the Sabres well:

He has played two straight seasons in the WHL, which is two levels below the NHL; yes he has
been dominant, as he should be at such a level, and the hopefully-soon-to-change rule in place
has prevented him from developing in Rochester this year. The reality is that he must adjust to
the man’s game and prolonged play at the AHL level is necessary for that.

Taking the time to let him grow will smother any injury or size concerns, as throwing him into
the NHL will only wear him down and obstruct his development; remember, if these kids are
dealing with nagging injuries in that 18- to 22-year-old window, they will not develop.


Kevyn Adams has stuck to his long-term plan with great fortitude. Whether us fans have enjoyed the
beginning portion of that plan’s rollout does, when it all comes down to it, not matter. He came in with
a 5- to 6-year plan, and he has executed it with purpose.

When Noah Ostland was drafted at 16 th OA in 2022, the GM made it clear that he would not even be in
North America for at least 3 seasons, and that has rung true with the player moving up to the SHL this
season, putting up 23 points in 38 games with the Vaxjo Lakers, and dominating the U20 International
Junior level with 17 points in 12 games. His move to Rochester is imminent, and he will join Savoie as
high-end replacements for Rosen and Kulich.

Look at that – as Rosen and Kulich graduate, there sit Ostland and Savoie, ready and waiting at the
perfect time. Well done, Kevyn. The pieces are falling into place, and the patience demonstrated by
Adams and his scouting staff is impressive. If we table the justifiable, coaching-specific gripes from the
fanbase and take a zoomed-out look at the GM’s performance thus far, it is obvious that he has vision.
With that being said, here are two trades that Kevyn Adams can/should pull off this summer that would
provide the roster with the grit, mentorship, scoring, and fit needed to make the Playoffs in 2025 and

Trade #1*
Buffalo Receives: Blake Coleman
2024 2nd Rd Pick
Calgary Receives: 2024 1st Rd Pick
Henri Jokiharju
Alexander Kisakov
2025 4th Rd Pick

With a surplus of both prospects and picks, Adams is able to work with cap-strapped teams that are
looking to re-tool and add depth to their current rosters/pipelines.

Blake Coleman is a 32-year-old forward who has put up 51 points in 72 games played this season. The
previous two seasons he put up 33 and 38 points in 82 games played. He is signed through the 2026-27
season (his age 35 season) at an AAV of $4.9MM. According to The Athletic, he is currently performing
at a $2.4 million surplus value, so a dip in production may occur, but he is an aggressive, tough, two-way
centreman with that West Coast combo of jam and speed. He thrives at center but can play any forward
position; a player with a high motor, Coleman loves to forecheck and drive play. A wise fit at mid-6
center who provides consistency, tenacity, and mentorship. He blocks shots, hits, and kills penalties.
This guy not only checks every box, he draws extra boxes and checks those too.

Parting with the 2024 1 st is “light work” as the kids say, and I think we all can agree that seeing Buffalo
draft another prospect in the top 15 this year may actually cause a mass psychotic break amongst the
fanbase; as far as this calendar year goes, it is wholly unnecessary to add another top prospect.

Losing Jokiharju is a bit tough, as he has been a solid 3 rd pairing guy and in my humble opinion always
represented a nice return in Kevyn Adams’ wily trade with Chicago for Nylander. He is besties with UPL
and still hasn’t reached his ceiling. As a pending RFA, Adams has to make a business decision here, and
the cap allocation for the additions in the forward group are too high a priority to keep Joker around.
Thus, he finds a new home on a talented team with good trajectory and an absolutely rabid fanbase.

Kisakov is an uber talented sleeper prospect who, under the right circumstances, could flourish at the
NHL level. He will be a welcome addition to a promising, but not quite deep enough prospect pool in

Trade #2
Buffalo Receives: Bryan Rust
2024 4th Rd Pick
Pittsburgh Receives: 2025 1st Rd Pick
Peyton Krebs

Rust is a high-flying winger who has shown the ability to step up in Playoff situations, consistently play a
two-way game, and produce with a variety of linemates (and no, he is not one of those players who only
performs when on a line with Crosby, though he does play with him regularly). He is 32 years old with a
deal that expires after the 2027-28 season, at an AAV of $6.1, $5.1, and then the final two years at $3.6.
He does have a NMC that expires after 2024-25, so he would have to approve this transaction, something that he may be averse to. This is a bit of coin toss, as Rust is a mainstay in Pittsburgh, with
term, and a strong relationship with both his captain and the fans. Because of this, there is a
contingency/alternate transaction included below this section.

Parting with Krebs may be tough for some, but he in particular has become expendable on a team that
appears to be ahead of him as far as the big picture goes. He could very well have a break-out in 2025,
but the Sabres are looking for more set-it-and-forget it options at forward, as the “observation period” is
over and Krebs will take another 1-2 seasons to come into form. Pittsburgh will welcome his agitating
style of play and creative play driving; I can see him pairing really well with Bunting and Reilly Smith, or
even the big boy Malkin. The Penguins need to make the best of Sidney Crosby’s golden years, and
having young talent with potential around him should be a top priority for Kyle Dubas. He would be
wise to free up cap space and mitigate the glaring roster deficiencies that are holding them back.

Alternate Transactions
Some of us may not view the above as either realistic enough or entertaining enough. If so, the
following section is for you and is intended to be somewhat swappable with either of the above
scenarios. Enjoy…

Free Agency Signing – Jonathan Marchessault

In the very possible event that Bryan Rust overrules the above trade with his NMC, the Buffalo GM will
need to have options at forward. He must add two veteran forwards who play a gritty game and
produce consistently, and there is no better player available for that than Jonathan Marchessault.
A 33-year old UFA with 66 points in 76 games as of today, with 41 goals, Marchessault made his mark as
a Playoff performer for Florida a few years back. He has maintained his edgy-yet-productive style of
play in Las Vegas, and precisely fits the mold for what Adams seeks.

The obvious question on this player revolves around what his next contract will look like, and while
Vegas would be wise to try and keep him, we all know that the Salary Cap footman is holding GM Kelly
McCrimmon’s coat, snickering. The Knights are once again being ultra-aggressive with their Cap squeeze
and Cup pursuit, which will of course cost them when it comes to resigning their top performers. More
power to them, as such moves and the collateral moves that occur as a result add much needed
entertainment value to the league overall. Thus, the $6 to $7 million needed to sign Marchessault will
be far too rich for the Las Vegas team.

His age and injury history is not a current concern, as Marchessault shows no signs of slowing down, but
the term will most likely reflect that, and would be in the neighborhood of 2-4 years. An investment
that would be well worth it for a team like Buffalo.

Wild and Crazy Trade – Pavel Buchnevich
Buffalo receives: Pavel Buchnevich

Torey Krug 25% retained
St Louis receives: Jeff Skinner 50% retained

Henri Jokiharju
2024 2nd Rd Pick

At 29 years old and 6’3”, 200 lbs, Buchnevich is a desirable scoring winger with skill, vision, and a high
acumen for puck possession. He is proficient in using his body to protect the puck and has soft hands in
close. He can be creative and distribute the puck with consistency while maintaining durability; in 3
years with St Louis he has produced 76p in 73 gp, 67 p in 63 gp, and this year has 58 p in 71 gp. He also
has 11 points in 12 Playoff games.

He is signed through 2025 at $6.3 million, and while Doug Armstrong has towed the PR line and sung his
praises to the media, it seems like Buchnevich is looking for a change of scenery. This season has been a
bit rocky in St Louis, as the Blues are most likely going to miss the Playoffs and fans have been making
life a bit tough at times for some players. So, there is a mutual empathy between two GMs, both of
whom are in the spotlight, with the pressure to improve their rosters now increasing by the month.

The Blues are in a solid position for a “retool”, with talented young players like Kyrou and Thomas locked
in long term, paired with veteran compliments in Schenn, Saad, and Faulk, and backstopped by the mercurial, but talented Jordan Binnington in net. Young dudes like Jake Neighbours give Armstrong a bit
of leeway when it comes to roster moves, as he is on the ELC through the end of next year and looks like
a hit at 26 th OA in 2020. Armstrong acquired Zach Dean and replenished the cupboards with nine
selections in the 2023 Draft, led by an impressive forward group that features Jimmy Snuggerud, Dalibor
Dvorsky, Otto Stenberg, and Zachary Bolduc. They have a 2024 cap crunch, with around $1.27 million
available today, and potentially $7.5 million coming off the books if they choose not to resign any of
Scandella, Blais, and Kapanen.

Based on the vibes in Bluesland, it looks like none of those UFAs will be resigned, and analysts are
expecting Armstrong to try and offload the Krug contract ($6.5 AAV through 2026-27) in an effort to free
up even more cap space. Letting their UFAs walk gives them some breathing room, along with the
$1.475 million they will save after the Vrana penalty, in the form of $10.5ish million in cap space. They
also have a full stock of draft picks in the next 3 years, with a few cherries on top in 2024 in extra 2 nd and
3 rd round picks from Toronto and the Rangers, respectively.

Buffalo and St Louis are two teams in very similar situations:

  • UFAs coming off the books in 2024, creating a nice little chunk of cap space (~$10MM for St
    Louis and ~$7.9MM if Buffalo lets every UFA walk).
  • Young core locked in long term, surrounded by a small group of players in their prime, with
    promising young talent developing.
  • Cap breathing room aside, both GMs have one obvious “albatross” contract (St Louis with Krug
    & Buffalo with Skinner).
  • Sustained draft capital for the next three years.

This is a big swing for both GMs and would require the two key pieces in Skinner and Buchnevich to
waive their NMCs, but when you look at the pieces, the circumstances, and the collaborative effort to
achieve balance, it makes sense for both teams. Buffalo retains $4.5AAV of Skinner’s deal for the next 3 seasons and St Louis retains $3.25 of the Krug deal for the same 3 seasons.

This would have to happen in place of the Calgary move, as Buffalo gives up 3 rd pairing RFA defenseman
in Jokiharju, their own 2024 2nd round pick, and their top winger in Skinner. St Louis sends their top
winger out the door in Buchnevich, along with the defenseman who giveth-and-taketh away, Torey
Krug, who has 36 points in 72 games with a -27 +/- rating.

Decisions, Decisions

Considering all of the above transactions and their likelihood, with an emphasis on the NMCs in play, I believe that Buffalo would take the following course:

Adams will pursue Rust first in an attempt to gain clarity on his willingness to waive the NMC for
Buffalo; odds are, Rust is too tied to Pittsburgh and wishes to stay, allowing the Buffalo GM to
move on to his next target – Blake Coleman. (*) This is the part where the mysterious asterisk come into play, and I get to be sneaky. With Rust and the Pens staying put, Adams will focus his attention on the pursuit of Coleman in the following trade:
a. Buffalo receives: Coleman, 2024 2nd Rd Pick, 2025 4th Rd Pick
b. Calgary receives: Krebs, Jokiharju, Kisakov, 2024 1st , 2024 4th Rd Pick

With Coleman in the fold and the task of what to do with the Krebs and Jokiharju contracts out
of the way, Adams looks to address his top priority, a top-6 forward;
a. As expected, the likelihood of both Skinner and Buchnevich waving their NMCs is low,
and while there is fit and fireworks here, the Buchnevich deal falls apart.
b. Concurrently though, Kevyn Adams is working the phones to see about the real prize,
Jonathan Marchessault.
c. After some negotiations, he lands one of the more “slept on” rats in the league to match
the impact we see guys like Tkachuk and Marchand have here in the Atlantic division,
and signs Marchessault to a 3-year, $19.95 million contract, with an AAV of $6.65 million.

The Final Results

Out the door:

  • Krebs
  • Jokiharju
  • Kisakov
  • 2024 1st round pick
  • 2024 4th round pick

In da house:

  • Marchessault
  • Coleman
  • 2024 2nd round pick
  • 2025 4th round pick

Roster & Cap Status

This will be a fairly pedestrian breakdown, as I am a rookie when it comes to the more nuanced knowledge of crossing the t’s and dotting the – lower case j’s – of the NHL salary cap.

With the signing of Marchessault, Adams adds pressure to the Cap squeeze with the $6.65 million AAV
contract, but that is alleviated a bit with the exit of Krebs and Jokiharju – two players that would have
commanded an estimated $4 million in combined AAV.

UPL is extended with a 2-year bridge deal at $3.5 AAV, adding in the $4.9 million tied to the Coleman
contract makes things interesting, which is where the rookie promotions really come into play.
Including everything above, the 2024-25 roster is as follows (I also took the liberty of adding some
coaching twists to this by tweaking the lines):

Thompson Cozens Marchessault Byram Dahlin UPL
Peterka Coleman Quinn Power Clifton Levi
Skinner Benson Tuch Samuelsson Johnson
Greenway Kulich Rosen

The returning forward group will take up ~$35.5 million and the returning defensemen will eat up
~$31.5 million, with the goaltenders owning ~$4.5 million (this assumes the bridge deal for UPL, paired
with the $925,000 for Levi).

Forwards $35.5 million
Defensemen $31.5 million
Goalies $4.5 million
Total $71.5 million

Trades/FAs $11.55 million
New ELCs $1.82 million
2024-25 Adj Cap $85 million

2024-25 NHL Cap $87.7 million
2024-25 Cap space $2.7 million

As stated above, I’m sure there is some sort of oversight here, so please correct me or my math in the
comments. Thanks in advance.

There are certain harsh realities that NHL GMs not only have to accept but lean into if they wish to
progress. Plenty of folks have expressed their desire to trade or buy out Jeff Skinner, and the reality is
that it is not at all probable or possible without inflicting serious damage and mortgaging the future.
Instead of trying to maneuver himself out from under that contract, Adams has the opportunity to get
more production from the player tied to it. Jeff Skinner is a durable, experienced, productive forward.
Period. Having a guy like that on the 3 rd line, with players that are capable of producing in a hybrid
checking line role (Benson, Tuch, etc.) will have favorable matchups and draw penalties all day long. His
game has warts, but he has been a perennially productive forward with the exception of his dark days in
Kreugerville. Which should highlight his ability to come back from the bottom of the barrel and reclaim
his 1 st line title. Impressive if you ask me.

Current top 6 pieces like Skinner and Tuch are in the prime cohort for Buffalo, with their contracts
ending in the 2 seasons between 2026 and 2027, and up until this season they have justified their spots
on the top line. More competition, more support, more tenacity within this cohort in the form of guys
like Marchessault and Coleman will result in exponential improvements.

He knows what he has in Kulich and Rosen. He knows what he has in their AHL replacements Savoie and
Ostland. Their timetables have never been clearer, and the young core of Dahlin, Power, Samuelsson,
and Cozens are locked in and set to continue their professional development, but only with proper
roster support.

There is clarity in net, as the slightly inconvenient gamble of letting UPL get a fair shot has seemingly
worked out. If Devon Levi needs to spend more time in Rochester (he is still quite young), there is room
to acquire a backup goaltender.

This is all made easy with the acquisition of Bowen Byram, and while I love Casey Mittelstadt, imagine
trying to manage a new contract for him and get your hands on a top-4 defenseman while still having to
add to the forward group. Not nearly as clear and simple as this. Again, vision. Adams knew that
contract would be problematic for his Cap situation, and he mitigated it with an outstanding return. If
that ain’t two birds with one stone, I don’t know what is.

This is the moment Kevyn Adams has been waiting for, as he has played a bit of rope-a-dope with the
roster in order to get here. He held onto Okposo and Girgensons for as long as possible, buying him
time to evaluate Krebs and let Seth Appert work his plan into the graduating prospects. This has come
at the expense of the fans in another projected Playoff miss, and possibly another head coach. Adams
and his team feel strongly about the price being paid here and if this works, the ire, angst,
embarrassment, and time will be well worth it.

I considered other players for trades here, guys like Kempe who are a few years younger than Coleman
and Marchessault. The Kings are looking good, and their willingness to trade their top point-getter and
1-2C is slim, however there are dozens and dozens of options. If you guys enjoyed this and want to see
a part 2, let me know, as I have a list of potential deals I evaluated for this.

Okay, now lets argue about this. Go!