The Buffalo Sabres have had a few players that have been pleasant surprises this season. Kyle Okposo and Jeff Skinner have posted strong bounce backs, Rasmus Dahlin has continued to develop into an elite defender, and Tage Thompson has emerged as a bonafide scoring threat. It might be because of this that Vinnie Hinostroza has largely flown under the radar. But he deserves more credit than he’s received, and the team can’t make the mistake of overlooking him.
The Sabres likely didn’t have the highest expectations of Hinostroza when they signed him to a one-year, $1.05 million deal in July 2021 to help fill out the bottom of the roster. However, he’s proven to be a good fit for the transitioning team, contributing 11 goals and 12 assists in 54 games. That might not seem like much to write home about, but considering how badly the Sabres have lacked supplemental scoring in recent years, it’s been a welcomed addition.
Teams will never complain about getting contributions from bottom-six forwards, and Hinostroza has been as good in that role as anyone could hope for. He’s gelled with the likes of Rasmus Asplund and John Hayden (the latter of whom the team should also re-sign) and is responsible defensively as well, rarely making unintelligent plays. This has allowed head coach Don Granato to trust him in key situations, and that was never more evident than in the Heritage Classic last month.
Vinnie the Maple Leaf Slayer
Hinostroza was the star of the game, scoring twice on the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Petr Mrazek and setting up another from Peyton Krebs to help Buffalo defeat its arch-rival and earn its first-ever outdoor victory, 5-2. His performance stunned the crowd at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, Ontario, and gave the Sabres fans in attendance even more reason to celebrate. If they hadn’t been taking notice of the Oak Park, IL native beforehand, they certainly were afterward.
Due to his strong play and one-year contract, Hinostroza was a potential trade deadline piece for the Sabres. But general manager Kevyn Adams ultimately chose to keep him, suggesting that the team may be looking to re-sign the 28-year-old. The Buffalo News recently reported that Adams could potentially offer a multi-year deal and that Hinostroza is on board as well (from “Sabres winger Vinnie Hinostroza says he is ‘super interested’ in new contract”, The Buffalo News, Mar. 23, 2022). Since the Sabres have loads of financial leeway this coming offseason (the team’s payroll is currently just $5 million above the salary floor), it would be a wise move to ink him to a new deal.
Considering he’s earning just over $1 million, Hinostroza has been the definition of a bargain. Despite missing almost two full months with a lower-body injury, he’s been a great boost for the Sabres on the ice and has provided leadership off of it. The team has taken many steps forward this season and has the makings of a solid core for the future. Keeping a player like him, an experienced journeyman, would be great for the likes of Dylan Cozens, Jack Quinn and (eventually) Owen Power.
A New Home in Buffalo
A new contract would also be well-deserved, as Hinostroza has had a difficult time finding a permanent home in recent seasons. After being drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2012 and spending the first three years of his career there, he was traded to the Arizona Coyotes in 2018 as part of a salary dump. A breakout, 39-point season in 2018-19 apparently wasn’t impressive enough to Arizona, however, as the team opted to not re-sign him after the 2019-20 season. Hinostroza then signed with the Florida Panthers for the COVID-shortened 2021 season but was then traded back to Chicago. Although he posted 12 points in 17 games after being re-acquired, the Blackhawks opted not to re-sign him as well, and he joined the Sabres.
Hinostroza’s play has been impressive this season, and he looks to be a player the Sabres should keep around if they want to continue their current upward trend. He obviously wouldn’t command a major, long-term deal, but something along the lines of a two-year, $6 million contract would be fair and beneficial for both sides. Buffalo would be making a mistake by letting Hinostroza walk away, and fans would be disappointed to not see him at KeyBank Center in the fall.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read my content! I’m a Niagara University journalism graduate and a lifelong Buffalo Sabres and hockey fan. I’ll gladly discuss anything Sabres with you. Talk to me on Twitter too if you’d like!