Buffalo Sabres 2016 Offseason Plans

After finishing with the lowest point total in the NHL for two years in a row, Buffalo Sabres’ fans finally had something to cheer about during the 2015-16 season. The team increased its point total by 27 over the previous year, and drastically improved its goal differential. A combination of players acquired through the draft, trades and free agency combined to make the Sabres a team on the rise.

Leading the way was rookie phenom Jack Eichel, the second overall pick in last year’s draft. He was the team’s top goal scorer, and finished second in points behind Ryan O’Reilly. Fellow rookie Sam Reinhart, the second overall selection in the previous draft, finished just behind Eichel in both goals and points. O’Reilly, acquired in a trade last offseason with Colorado, proved to be more than capable as Buffalo’s top center. Veterans like Brian Gionta and David Legwand combined with Evander Kane, Rasmus Ristolainen and other youngsters to greatly improve the quality of play in Buffalo.

Pending Free Agents: Ristolainen, just 21 years old, is turning into one of the best young defenseman in the game and is a restricted free agent. The Sabres will not let him get away, and will likely sign him to a long term deal. Backup goaltender Chad Johnson is an unrestricted free agent and will probably test the free agent market looking to become a starter after playing well this season. 35 year old Legwand is also an UFA, and the team may decide to move on with a younger option.

One player not up for free agency but likely on his way out is Matt Moulson. He is due five million dollars a year for the next 3 years, a sum way too high for his meager production of just 21 points in 81 games.

Draft Picks: General Manager Tim Murray has made it clear he is looking for a left handed, top four defenseman. There are three of these players expected to go in the top ten of this year’s draft, in which Buffalo will pick 8th. Murray could trade up using his vast draft capital (12 picks this year) to ensure he gets one, or he may wait and take the best player available.

Free Agent Additions: If the Sabres look for defensive help in free agency, the team could add Keith Yandle (New York Rangers) or Alex Goligoski (Dallas Stars). Former Sabre Brian Campbell may be available, but at age 36, it is unclear if the team would want to sign him. Since the free agent market is relatively thin, and Buffalo has so many draft picks and prospects, they can try to acquire a defenseman via trade. Targets include Cam Fowler (Anaheim Ducks), Kevin Shattenkirk (St. Louis Blues) and Patrick Wiercioch (Ottawa Senators).

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