The Buffalo Sabres announced their final, 23-man roster that they will ice for opening night when they play the Montreal Canadiens at home at KeyBank Center on Thursday. All 32 NHL teams were required to submit their final rosters to the NHL by 5:00pm EST on Monday, and save a few last-minute re-assignments, the Sabres had their roster almost completely set at practice Monday morning. With the 23 players they kept, their salary cap hit comes in at $64,047,764, just $4 million over the cap floor of $60.2 million – and that’s with Jack Eichel and his $10 million salary counting toward it. The cap limit is $81.5 million, so the Sabres are in no danger of being cap-strapped this season.
Sabres Finalize 23-Man Roster
The Sabres’ opening night lineup, barring any major trades or any further free agent signings before the start of the regular season, will look like this, based on the practice lines from Monday:
Line 1: Skinner – Mittelstadt – Hinostroza
Line 2: Asplund – Thompson – Olofsson
Line 3: Bjork – Cozens – Caggiula
Line 4: Girgensons – Eakin – Okposo
Extras: ? – Ruotsaleinen – Hayden
Pair 1: Dahlin – Jokiharju
Pair 2: Hagg – Pysyk
Pair 3: Bryson – Miller
Injured Reserve: Jack Eichel
There are a lot of familiar faces on this roster, but there are also a lot of new ones, too. Vinnie Hinostroza, one of the Sabres’ under-the-radar free agent signings, will have an opportunity to prove himself on the first line playing alongside Casey Mittelstadt, who looks to build off of his impressive second half of the 2020-21 season. Arttu Ruotsalinen and John Hayden find themselves on the bubble of the forward group, and might not get the chance to suit up for Game 1, while Will Butcher could be the odd man out on the back end.
The Sabres will have a new goalie in the crease this season as Craig Anderson is slated to start over Dustin Tokarski, who battled his way back into the Sabres’ backup goalie slot. Robert Hagg and Mark Pysyk make up a new defensive pairing after a slew of trades and signings, and Anders Bjork and Drake Caggiula will start the season as a member of the Sabres for the first time in their careers.
Sabres Have Several New Faces In the Lineup
The Sabres have six new players on the opening night roster that weren’t there last season, five of which will play their first game in a Sabres sweater in their career. The lone returning player is Mark Pysyk, a veteran NHL defenseman who is back for his second stint with the Sabres after signing with the team during the NHL’s Free Agency period. He spent the first four seasons of his career with the Sabres, before playing for four seasons with the Florida Panthers and most recently for one season with the Dallas Stars.
There were two other new additions to the Sabres blue line: Butcher and Hagg. Butcher spent the first four seasons of his career with the New Jersey Devils, and has recorded 106 points in 238 NHL games, which is an impressive mark for a young player who could help add some offense to the defense core. Hagg came over from the Philadelphia Flyers in the trade that sent longtime Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen packing, in exchange for Hagg and the Flyers’ 2021 fourteenth-overall pick, which the Sabres used to select Isak Rosen. Hagg is a five-year NHL veteran, so he brings some experience to the blue line.
Hayden and Hinostroza fill out the forward group as new offseason additions, and both will have a chance to make their mark on the Sabres roster this season and earn their ways up to a full-time role. Hayden spent last season with the Arizona Coyotes, and has played a rough and mean game over his 185 career NHL games. In that body of work, he’s logged 199 penalty minutes, including 17 majors. Hinostroza signed a one-year deal with the Sabres after an impressive season split between the Panthers and Chicago Blackhawks, which saw him record 12 points in 26 games.
Last but not least, Anderson is the newest and most experienced addition to the roster, returning for his 19th NHL season in the goal crease. Anderson played with the Washington Capitals last season, and after contemplating retirement, decided he had more to give in the NHL, so he decided to do it with the Sabres.
Ruotsalinen & Butcher On the Brink
While new players like Hinostroza played well enough to earn a spot on the Sabres’ top line for opening night, returning player Arttu Ruotsaleinen and new defenseman Butcher are on the brink of being healthy scratches when the puck drops this week. Ruotsaleinen, who had five goals, one assist, and six points in 17 games with the Sabres last season, is in a battle to make the cut and avoid sitting out, or being sent down to the AHL to start the season in the minors with the Amerks once again. Butcher, on the other hand, is looking to solidify himself with his new team, and his NHL future could be in jeopardy if he fails to do that. It remains to be seen what will happen with both of these players, but it’s almost certain they’ll eventually get a chance to play with the Sabres in a game this season.
Other Key Sabres Moves
The Sabres placed Axel Jonsson-Fjallby on waivers, and the Washington Capitals reclaimed him just a week after he was placed on waivers by the Capitals and claimed by the Sabres. J-J Peterka, one of the last cuts made by the Sabres, was assigned to the Amerks Monday, but head coach Don Granato says that he still expects him to be “in the mix” this season. The Sabres open the 2021-22 NHL regular season on Thursday against the Montreal Canadiens, and look to start off on a good note as they embark on a long, 82-game regular season.
Brandon is a Buffalo Sabres Contributor for THW and Co-Host of THW’s ‘Sabres Scoop,’ who received his Master of Science in Sport Administration from Canisius College in Buffalo, NY, and founded his website, Seltytending, in 2017. He is an avid hockey writer and podcaster with prior work experience in the OJHL, NWHL, and NCAA. Twitter: @BSalts15