The Buffalo Sabres will continue to transform in the coming weeks in preparation for the 2016-17 NHL season.
The Sabres were an improved club in 2015-16 and have a lot of pieces in place to continue this upward trend. Buffalo has an infusion of young prospects in its future with 11 selections in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. In addition, CapFriendly.com projects that the Sabres have approximately $21.9 million in cap space to spend on new contracts.
A busy offseason lies ahead for Buffalo’s General Manager Tim Murray. Some new players will be considered for the blue and gold next season while contract decisions need to be made for several current members of the team. Here is a look at five pending Sabres UFAs within the organization who will hit the open market later this summer.
[See Also: Buffalo Sabres’ Late Round Draft Gems]
You have to see it again… That time David Legwand scored from his own zone(!). 😱https://t.co/6KfqjpguJH
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) June 16, 2016
The Sabres acquired Legwand last summer. Legwand came to Buffalo along with goaltender Robin Lehner in exchange for the Sabres’ 21st overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Legwand played an important role as a mentor to Buffalo’s youth this season.
Legwand is a former first round pick who was drafted second overall by the Nashville Predators in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. He is a 17-year NHL veteran playing for the Nashville Predators, Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators, and last season with the Sabres.
During his career, Legwand has 228 goals and 618 points in 1136 NHL games. While he has had a strong career, Legwand’s scoring has diminished in recent seasons. The 35-year-old Sabres UFA is on the heels of a five goal and 14 point performance in Buffalo this past season.
A native of Toronto, Ont, Colaiacovo is a 13-year veteran of the NHL. He signed a one-year contract with the Sabres last summer and provided defensive depth for Buffalo last season.
Colaiacovo was the 17th overall selection in the first round of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. The 33-year-old has spent time with the Toronto Maple Leafs, St. Louis Blues, Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers and with the Sabres.
In 470 career NHL games, the veteran has 34 goals and 157 points. Injuries have hampered Colaiacovo’s NHL career. He appeared in a career high 73 games during the 2008-09 season for Toronto and St. Louis but has averaged just 31 games played in the past three seasons.
[See Also: Buffalo Sabres’ Season Series Success Stories]
Ruhwedel hits the open market this summer. The defenseman struggled to earn a regular role with the Sabres since he agreed to terms with the team during the 2012-13 season. Much of Ruhwedel’s time has been spent with the Sabres’ AHL affiliate Rochester Americans.
In 110 games with the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Ruhwedel scored 15 goals and 63 points. After his strong college career, Ruhwedel signed with Buffalo on an entry-level contract. He appeared in seven games for Buffalo to close out the 2012-13 season.
Since then, Ruhwedel has spent most of his time in the AHL. The defenseman has played in 178 games for Rochester in the past three seasons tallying 24 goals and 90 points. He has appeared in 33 games for the Sabres including one game last season and has notched just two assists during his NHL career. Ruhwedel is a Sabres UFA that has yet to prove himself at the NHL level.
Tim Schaller is a native of Merrimack, NH and has appeared in games for Buffalo during the past two seasons. The 25-year-old is a former defenseman which has influenced his game as a forward. Schaller signed with Buffalo in 2013.
He served as captain during his days playing at Providence College. In 131 games with Providence, Schaller scored 29 goals and 68 points. Similar to Ruhwedel, Schaller spent much of his time with the Rochester Americans. He served as an assistant captain with Rochester in 2014-15. Schaller scored 38 goals and 87 points in 174 games with the Americans.
In the past two seasons, Schaller has appeared in 35 games with the Sabres. During that time he has scored two goals and five points.
Goaltender Chad Johnson had a strong 2015-16 campaign with the Buffalo Sabres. He arrived in Buffalo along with a 2016 conditional third round selection in a trade with the New York Islanders for former Sabres goaltender Michal Neuvirth. Johnson performed well for the Sabres, who relied upon him while injury limited Robin Lehner.
Johnson was originally drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the fifth round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. Since then he has spent time with the New York Rangers, Phoenix (now Arizona) Coyotes, Boston Bruins and New York Islanders before being traded to the Sabres.
The 30-year-old set a career high with 45 games played last season and 22 victories. Johnson posted respectable numbers in 2015-16 with a .920 save percentage, 2.36 GAA, and one shutout. Aside from a few difficult outings, on the whole Johnson performed well enough to give his club a chance to win.
Tim joined The Hockey Writers in July 2013. He began his tenure with THW by covering the Minnesota Wild and he now writes on the Buffalo Sabres. Tim completed his undergraduate and graduate work at the University at Buffalo. In addition, he is a published historian and a Baltimore Orioles Contributing Writer for LegendsOnDeck.com. Tim’s work for THW has been featured on sites such as Yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @TOHockeyTHW