The road out of Buffalo has seen defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen and forward Sam Reinhart leave in the last week, and on the opening day of NHL free agency, the club saw goalie Linus Ullmark sign a four-year, $20 million contract ($5 million AAV) with the division rival Boston Bruins, leaving the Sabres scrambling to find netminders for the 2021-22 season.
Late Wednesday night, the club agreed to one-year, league-minimum contracts with 40-year-old veteran Craig Anderson and journeyman Aaron Dell, further confirming the Sabres’ direction towards a full rebuild.
“We had a lot of discussions with Linus and his agent (going) back during the season all the way through until yesterday afternoon. He chose to go a different direction. I felt that we made a strong offer, but what we weren’t going to do was go beyond where we were comfortable.” Sabres GM Kevyn Adams said. “We certainly looked into where the market was (with) certain trade scenarios, but giving up assets isn’t something we were comfortable with at that point.”
Sabres’ top goaltending prospect Ukka-Pekka Luukkonen is only 22 years old and in need of a full year in the American Hockey League after playing only 25 AHL games over the last three seasons, so it is likely that Anderson, Dell and veteran Dustin Tokarski will split the duties next season.
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Sabres Show Patience In Jack Eichel Trade Talks
The departure that has been most anticipated was that of Jack Eichel, but in spite of trade talks with numerous clubs before and after last week’s NHL Draft, the Sabres team captain is still on the Sabres roster and Adams has indicated that he intends to remain patient until he receives an offer worthwhile of one of the league’s best centers.
“We’re continuing to have a lot of conversations with teams and we’re open on all our players as I’ve said over and over again and Jack in particular,” Adams said. “The phone rings, we have conversations, but I think what’s critically important to make clear is that we’re in control of this process. We have a player under contract, we don’t feel any pressure. If there’s a deal out there that we feel is the right thing for the Buffalo Sabres, (that’s) going to help us improve, whether that’s improved right away or improved down the road, those are all the things we weigh. We’d be open to it, but we’re not in a position where we feel that we’re just going to do something to do it. That doesn’t make any sense, so that those conversations are continuing to go on.”
The club also announced on Thursday the additions of Jason Christie, Matt Ellis, and Marty Wilford to their coaching staff and former Sabre Adam Mair as their director of player development.