The waiver wire gives the Sabres another opportunity to improve the roster
A few players placed on waivers may make sense for the Sabres to explore
The Buffalo Sabres made their final roster cuts today and appear to have their team set for opening night on Thursday in Pittsburgh.
Although Jason Botterill may be comfortable with this lineup, they should be open to making changes if the opportunity presents itself before the season.
As the other clubs around the league set their rosters by the 5 PM deadline today to be cap compliant, a few interesting players have hit the waiver wire. Last year, the Sabres claimed forward Remi Elie off of waivers from the Dallas Stars a few days before the start of last season. The team was having some injury concerns to start the season, but Botterill wasn’t afraid to make an addition to the roster late in the preseason process.
This year should be no different. There are a few players that are available for free that could improve the roster.
The first player is one that Botterill is familiar with from his time with the Pittsburgh Penguins in Daniel Sprong. He’s a 22-year-old winger that was selected by the Penguins in the second round of the 2015 NHL Draft. He was traded to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for defenseman Marcus Pettersson in December of 2018.
In 47 games with the Ducks last season, Sprong, scored 14 goals and registered 19 points. Overall in 63 games last season between the Ducks and Penguins, he totaled 23 points. He’s a surprise name on the waiver wire with the Ducks acquiring him less than a year ago and he did perform for them.
He could provide the Sabres with some depth scoring over what they would get out of a player like Zemgus Girgensons or even Kyle Okposo. It’s hard to measure his exact defensive impact coming from the Randy Carlyle led Ducks. Most players that come from that team show negative defensive impacts and Sprong is no different. His isolated impact chart below from Micah McCurdy, showcase similar impacts to someone like Jimmy Vesey.
Another dynamic forward that is available on the waiver is the former first-round pick, Josh Ho-Sang. The scoring winger has had some off-ice issues in the past but recently has kept that noise under wraps. He’s failed to get the opportunity to have an extended look with the New York Islanders and change of scenery may best for him.
The 23-year-old winger has seven goals and 24 points in 53 career NHL games. He’s never played more than 22 games in a season for the Islanders. His AHL numbers don’t jump off the page either, but again he’s a right-winger than can give you more offensively than what is currently on the roster in a bottom six role.
In limited playing time, the twins (Evolving Wild) and Micah’s chart grade Ho-Sang out as a decent defensive impact player. He could be the beneficiary of a strong defensive system under Barry Trotz that could be inflating his defensive ability at 5 on 5. The offensive impact looks strong for Ho-Sang, but the sample size isn't large.
He’s a speedy winger that can provide some upside offensively and could also help out on the power play if given the opportunity. It’s a low-risk, high-reward move for the Sabres. He’s a restricted free agent after this season and only carries an $874 thousand cap hit.
The last player on the waiver wire that the Sabres may want to explore is Nashville Predators forward Miika Salomaki. The 26-year-old Finn is a different type of winger than the two aforementioned players. He doesn’t have the offensive upside, but he may be the best defensive forward in the group. Salomaki had the 14th best xGA/60 in Evolving Hockey’s RAPM model last season and the 44th best total xGPM/60 in their model among all forwards.
He hasn’t picked up more than eight points in a season with the Predators but could be a good player to match with Johan Larsson in a defensive role. He can generate some offense but doesn’t have the touch to finish. Essentially the Sabres would be upgrading over Zemgus Girgensons with this type of claim.
Salomaki has one more year left on his deal with a $750 thousand cap hit. He’ll become an unrestricted free agent after this season.
The Sabres only have 44 contracts on the books and will create some space on their cap once they place Zach Bogosian on long-term injured reserve, as expected. None of these players are going to drastically change the fortune of the Sabres season, but it does allow them to improve.
They’re fifth in the waiver claim order based on the standings from last season and then in November the waiver order changes based on current league standings. We’ll see if Botterill makes another claim this year.