The Nine Lives of Sabres Goaltending

The Sabres have had a lot of goaltending issues lately.

Through a series of unfortunate events that no one could have possibly predicted, the Buffalo Sabres are now once again running low on goaltenders with NHL contracts. A combination of factors at play - management, injury, COVID-19, and league rules that aren’t giving teams a taxi squad this season - has put the Sabres in a tough position when it comes to their netminding.

As it stands right now, the Sabres are down to just two healthy goaltenders on NHL contracts in the entire organization. It’s a bleak situation, but also another example of how chaotic things have been in net for the franchise over the last few years. Since the beginning of the 2020-21 NHL season, the Sabres have seen nine different goaltenders appear in at least one game for the team. In the time that Don Granato’s been interim or head coach, Buffalo has had eight goaltenders.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time the Sabres have found themselves in this situation in recent history. Still - the question bears asking: how did we get here again?

Some of it is management. The Sabres didn’t re-sign Ullmark prior to this season, and let him go to Boston. Some of it lies on lingering injuries; Craig Anderson was never supposed to be out of commission this long. Some of it is pandemic-related. And come on... who could have ever imagined that they’d trade for a goalie who would get hurt in his FIRST game?!

A look at each of the nine netminders, where they’ve been & where they are now:

Craig Anderson

What he did in Buffalo: After choosing to sign with the Sabres instead of retiring, Anderson appeared in six games with the Sabres at the beginning of this season. It was an impressive stretch for the 40-year-old, who had a 2.50 GAA and .921 save percentage.

What happened? Anderson suffered an upper-body injury.

Where is he now? Initially week-to-week, he was recently downgraded to month-to-month.

Aaron Dell

What he did in Buffalo: Dell began this season with the AHL’s Rochester Americans. He won all three games with a .905 save percentage and 3.01 GAA.

What happened? With the injury to Anderson, Dell was recalled to the NHL.

Where is he now? Still in Buffalo, Dell is one of just two healthy goaltenders on an NHL contract in the organization.

Michael Houser

What he did in Buffalo: Last season, Houser split time between Buffalo and Rochester. In four NHL games, he went 2-2 and had a .901 save percentage and 3.46 GAA.

What happened? Nothing in particular, but he’s low on the food chain here.

Where is he now? After playing in three games with the ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones, Houser was recalled to the Amerks, where he’s appeared in three games. He has a 2.70 GAA and .896 save percentage and may see some time as a tandem with Mat Robson, recently recalled from Cincy.

Carter Hutton

What he did in Buffalo: Hutton appeared in 13 games last season for the Sabres and struggled mightily. His final record with the team: 1-10-1, with a .886 save percentage and a 3.47 GAA.

What happened? The Sabres didn’t re-sign him.

Where is he now? Hutton has gone from bad to worse with the Arizona Coyotes. In three games this season, he’s averaged 7.76 goals-against with a .741 save percentage.

Jonas Johansson

What he did in Buffalo: Last season with the Sabres, Johansson appeared in seven games. On his record, he went 0-5-1 with a 3.79 GAA and .884 save percentage.

What happened? He was traded to the Colorado Avalanche for a sixth-round pick, which turned into Nikita Novikov.

Where is he now? Still with the Avs, Johansson has a 3.74 GAA and .884 save percentage in eight games this season.

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen

What he did in Buffalo: Luukkonen appeared in four games with the Sabres last season. He went 1-3-0 with a .906 save percentage and 3.88 GAA.

What happened? Nothing, he’s still around.

Where is he now? Luukkonen was recalled to the NHL on December 6. He’s appeared in 12 games with Rochester this season but has been inconsistent.

Malcolm Subban

What he did in Buffalo: Subban has appeared in one game with the Sabres, allowing six goals on 25 shots faced against the Carolina Hurricanes.

What happened? With about 10 minutes remaining in his Buffalo debut, Subban suffered a lower-body injury.

Where is he now? Day-to-day with lower-body injury; could return over the weekend.

Dustin Tokarski

What he did in Buffalo: Tokarski has appeared in games for both the Sabres and Amerks over the last few seasons. This year, he’s gone 4-5-3 with a .903 save percentage and 3.28 GAA at the NHL level.

What happened? On December 2, the Sabres played Tokarski in the NHL’s COVID protocol.

Where is he now? Per The Buffalo News’ Mike Harrington, Tokarski is currently in quarantine in Florida, where the Sabres were when he was placed in protocol.

Linus Ullmark

What he did in Buffalo: Ullmark appeared in 20 games for the Sabres during the 2020-21 season, putting up respectable numbers: a .917 save percentage and 2.63 GAA.

What happened? The Sabres didn’t re-sign him.

Where is he now? Now donning a Bruins jersey, Ullmark has a .911 save percentage and 2.68 GAA for the Boston Bruins this season in nine games so far.