Sabres Need to Add by Subtracting

Jason Botterill has been very busy this offseason, adding a number of young players to the Buffalo Sabres organization. With the likes of Rasmus Asplund, Victor Olofsson, and Lawrence Pilut among others signing with the Sabres, Botterill has flexibility with his roster. The Sabres GM needs to use this flexibility to unload some of the players that aren’t providing value to the roster.

There are at least three players that Botterill should consider moving. Whether it be this year or next, the Sabres GM needs to test the market and see if he can get anything of value in return for these players.

Zach Bogosian

Zach Bogosian is a former third overall pick, and he can be a very effective player when he’s on the ice. He has some offensive capabilities and is very solid defensively, but the issue with Bogosian is that he’s barely on the ice.

Tim Murray brought Bogosian over along with Evander Kane three years ago, but during his time with the Sabres, he hasn’t been able to play a full season without suffering an injury.

In his three full seasons with Buffalo, Bogosian has played 64 games, 56 games, and 18 games respectively. That means out of a possible 246 games over those seasons, Bogosian has missed 108, and with a cap hit of $5.1 million, that is just too many games lost.

Zach Bogosian
Zach Bogosian (Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports)

Bogosian’s ability on the ice is probably worth the cap hit he has, but a key component of being an impact NHL player is durability. Unfortunately for Bogosian, he doesn’t have any durability and can’t be relied on to play a full season.

With the Sabres bringing Pilut and Will Borgen into the fold, and with the assumption of Dahlin being drafted on June 22, Botterill will have three players on friendly contracts that have the potential to replace Bogosian on the suddenly crowded Sabres blue line.

Now that the team has some defensive depth, Bogosian is expendable. The tricky part is, due to his lack of durability, there won’t be teams lining up to trade for the defender.

But if Botterill does decide to make a big trade this summer, I wouldn’t be surprised if he tries to throw Bogosian into the deal, even if it means a lesser value in return.

If he can’t find any takers, a buyout is the only remaining option for the Sabres if they want to unload Bogosian’s horrific contract.

Kyle Okposo

With five seasons left at and a cap hit of $6 million per season Kyle Okposo is a different case than Bogosian. If Okposo can regain his form this season and become a 20-plus goal scorer again, the Sabres might not even have to unload his contract.

If Okposo can’t regain his old form next season, the Sabres are in deep trouble going forward.

Kyle Okposo Sabres
Kyle Okposo, Buffalo Sabres, Dec. 14, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Just over one year removed from an illness, Okposo is now healthy and should a full summer to train, and to get into shape for the upcoming NHL season. On a team that lacks scoring (especially from the wing), Okposo is one of the only proven scorers the Sabres have.

The team needs him to be healthy and in shape so he can be the contributor that the team knows he can be.

If I was Botterill, I would be patient with Okposo. He deserves at least one more year to prove he can be the player he once was before the Sabres explore their options with him.

However, with players like Casey Mittlestadt, Sam Reinhart, and the future first overall selection Rasmus Dahlin all needing new contracts within the next four years, Okposo should be worried about his status on the Sabres’ roster.

If the Sabres wanted to explore their options with Okposo, they would find that trading him is their only option. With the amount dollars, and term left on his deal a buyout isn’t financially responsible for the team.

Okposo would have more value than Bogosian on the trade market, as he’s a 20-goal scorer with good leadership experience. I think that if the Sabres wanted to move him, they could. They may just have to retain some salary, which would only make sense if the return is significant.

While there is hope that Okposo can regain his old form, it is more likely that he won’t ever be the same, and the Sabres should consider their options at some point in the next two years.

Johan Larsson

Johan Larsson doesn’t have any term on his contract past 2018-19, and he only has a cap hit of $1.475 million, but he definitely deserves to be in the “must-go” category.

Johan Larsson
Sabres forward Johan Larsson skates past the Bruins’ Dougie Hamilton. (Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

Larsson has been with Buffalo since 2013-14 and has failed to make an impact in his tenure with the Sabres. With 65 points in 258 career games, it is clear that he doesn’t impact the game offensively, and he has struggled with his defensive game over the last few seasons.

Coming off a gold medal at the IIHF World Championships (link to, Larsson should have some confidence heading into the offseason, and a change of scenery would improve his confidence. For every Sabre, it has been a struggle over the last few years, but Larsson has been around since the Sabres began their tanking process.

With a new regime ready to shape the roster the way they want, Larsson is a low-risk buy for any other NHL team and would be very cheap to acquire. With the likes of Asplund and Evan Rodrigues as possible replacements for Larsson, he should be moved this offseason, one way or the other.

Botterill is ready to completely overhaul the roster this summer, and these three names should be moved out in the process. The Sabres’ future finally looks bright, and keeping these three players would keep them stuck in the past. To truly move on from the old ways, Botterill has to move at least two of the three names listed above. He will free up some cap space, but more importantly, he will move out players that were brought in by Tim Murray and have experienced nothing but losing during their time with Buffalo.