Sabres fans are well aware that their team has been in a process of rebuilding for quite some time now, and this offseason is no exception. They are, however, making some positive steps towards the future, so there is always anticipation that hope will finally spring eternal in Buffalo. There are only eight spots available to make the playoffs, so will these moves help the Sabres claim one of them? That remains to be seen, but surely they can do better than the dismal 23 wins they earned last year, setting them firmly in 8th place in the Atlantic Division.
As with most teams in the NHL, the free agent signing period began with a frenzy. Buffalo made quite a few moves in this regard, aimed at improving their performance on both sides of the ice. The moves began with the additions of Ryan O’Reilly and Jamie McGinn. Both are well respected forwards around the league, so hopefully they can do something to spark an offense that sputtered throughout much of last season. The Sabres continued their initial free agent signings by securing former Red Wings defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo, and they went after and got Robin Lehner to take care of the goal for them. They did not so badly in the draft, either, picking Jake Eichel, so hopefully that will pay dividends moving forward into the future. It is also worth mentioning that the Sabres will be losing two of their defensemen. Andrej Meszaros and Nikita Zadorov will be going elsewhere. In addition, two forwards in Cody Hodgson and Mikhail Grigorenko will not be donning a Sabres uniform come October.
Graphic via nhl
All indications are that the Sabres did extremely well in the draft, as they should considering they had the second pick overall. Eichel is a strong forward that has the potential of being a franchise player as he matures, which will certainly aid in the rebuilding process. To bide their time until Eichel makes his appearance on ice, O’Reilly is a young center who single handedly produced a respectable 55 points in Colorado over the course of last season. He is young, but already has over 400 games at the NHL level, so Sabres fans should be excited to see him in uniform next season. He is secured long term, signing a contract for seven years, earning him a tad over $52 million.
In reality, the Sabres have finished in the basement of the NHL for the past two years, and there are many factors that have contributed to this. Goaltending is one major weakness, and the addition of Lehner is a move in the right direction. They also have a new coach at the helm, and that should hopefully bring some new motivation, excitement, and enthusiasm to the Buffalo area. The offseason is far from over, and the prospects of making the playoffs next season are still low, but the rebuilding process in Buffalo certainly appears heading in the right direction.
Graphic via sabres.nhl