Sabres Should Target These Remaining Free Agents

The Buffalo Sabres have been relatively quiet since the early days of free agency, likely viewing their roster as complete and awaiting the start of the 2022-23 season. Signing Eric Comrie and Ilya Lyubushkin filled their most glaring needs of goaltending and right defense, while leaving the forward group relatively unchanged. They have a solid crop of young forwards, and we will likely see Jack Quinn and JJ Peterka graduate to the NHL this season, so there isn’t an inherent need there. But with how things shook out during the first phase of free agency, there are still some very intriguing names the Sabres should pursue, not only at forward but on defense as well.

Intriguing Forward Options for the Sabres

Sonny Milano

Perhaps best known for scoring one of the best goals in the NHL last season and against the Sabres nonetheless, Sonny Milano was not given a qualifying offer from the Ducks. He scored 14 goals and 20 assists last season in somewhat of a breakout campaign for him while playing on a line with two very skilled players in Trevor Zegras and Rickard Rakell. That line was responsible for 14 goals in their 28 games together and was one of the team’s most productive trios throughout the year.  He also factored into their power play, scoring 10 of his 34 points with the man advantage. 

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Milano was moved around the lineup quite a bit, and having him do the same for Buffalo could be beneficial. They have multiple lines with skilled players and having a versatile player like him would be tremendous for their forward depth. 

Evan Rodrigues

Would an Evan Rodrigues reunion make sense for the Sabres? He would be a great addition to a forward group that needs a little more center depth as he enjoyed a breakout year last season in an increased role, scoring 19 goals and 24 assists for the Penguins. He was a great fit for a team that loved to push the pace with a fast transition to offense.

Evan Rodrigues Pittsburgh Penguins
Evan Rodrigues, Pittsburgh Penguins (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

With the Sabres playing a similar style, he would fit in well with Don Granato’s system and would be an important part of the team’s bottom-six. He would add speed and skill to the unit, while also adding defensive responsibility so the younger players on the roster could put their skills on display.

Daniel Sprong

After being dealt from the Capitals to the Seattle Kraken at last season’s trade deadline, Daniel Sprong was not re-signed by the team this offseason. He had an alright season last year, netting 14 goals and six assists in 63 games and is likely looking for an opportunity to stay in the NHL and prove himself.

Related: Sabres’ Top-6 Is Getting Crowded

Buffalo could use more goal scorers, and he would provide a similar role to Milano, playing anywhere in the bottom six and occasionally chipping in on offense. The Sabres have the room necessary to take chances on players like Sprong who need an opportunity to prove themselves, making this a low-risk and potentially high-reward option for them.

Defensive Targets the Sabres Can Pursue

The Lyubushkin signing was a really good one for the Sabres, as they were able to address their need for a right-handed defenseman, while also adding some grit and physicality to a core that desperately needed some. Even after signing him, the right side of their defense is a little thin. Outside of Lyubushkin and Henri Jokiharju, Casey Fitzgerald would be next up on the right side of the depth chart. The free agent market is also thin on the right side, but there are a couple of players left that could help them out.

PK Subban

The Sabres already have Malcolm Subban in the organization, and adding his brother P.K. Subban could be a solid addition for them. He played in a reduced role for the New Jersey Devils last season, helping him defensively as he had easier assignments throughout the year. He would also be a great mentor to some of the younger defensemen the Sabres have like Rasmus Dahlin and Owen Power.

P.K. Subban, New Jersey Devils
P.K. Subban, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Subban would not demand an expensive contract and it would be short-term, so the Sabres could move on from him at the trade deadline if they wanted to. Adding him would be another low-risk and potentially high-reward move they could pursue to help their defense next season.

Michael Stone 

A much lesser-known name, Michael Stone is a depth defenseman who would factor in on the team’s bottom pair, or as the seventh defenseman. He is a defensive defenseman who will not stand out in most games but will give you 15 to 20 solid minutes each night. He would also add a steady, veteran presence to the defense core and the locker room. Like Subban, he would not demand an expensive contract and it is absolutely something the Sabres can afford if they chose to pursue another addition to the right side of the defense.

Whatever option the Sabres choose to take, they are in a good spot as their roster is filled with young talent and perhaps the best option right now is to let those young players have as much ice time as possible. Adding organizational depth would benefit them as well, however, as injuries happen and if they are serious about taking a step towards the playoffs this season they will need to overcome those injuries when they occur.

The Sabres’ forward depth right now is solid, but adding another NHL-level talent who can step into the lineup would be a huge benefit to them. Defensively they have amassed a slew of talented left-handed defensemen, but the right side is lacking in depth. You can never have enough defensemen in the NHL, and adding one more now will help them when they inevitably need a right-hand shot to step in. General manager Kevyn Adams has shown in the past that he is willing to be patient and waiting this long to add more to his team is another sign of that. He now can see how the roster is shaping up as we get closer to training camp, and make moves as he sees fit.

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