In what has been a mostly quiet offseason for the Buffalo Sabres, they have bolstered their blue line with trades for both Colin Miller and Henri Jokiharju, who can make the opening night roster. Acquiring Jimmy Vesey and signing Marcus Johansson, players that will help fill the top three lines for the Sabres, are roster moves that will directly affect next season. However, with the potential of dealing Rasmus Ristolainen and their cap space, these are potential free agents the Sabres could look to for reinforcements at either end of the lineup.
Jake Gardiner, LHD
2018-19: 3 G, 27 A, 30 PTS in 62 GP
After spending his first eight seasons in Toronto, Gardiner, as a UFA, would fill a big need for teams searching for help on the blue line. Although Jason Botterill has improved the Sabres defensive core after acquiring Colin Miller, adding a left-handed defensman would bolster this team heading into next season. One of the concerns of signing Gardiner is injuries the back injury he suffered that caused him to miss 20 games until returning to the lineup in April, playing in their final two regular season games. However, in the five years prior, when he remained mostly healthy, Gardiner averaged 36 points from 2013-14 to the 2017-18 seasons, and can provide a top-four role for the Sabres if they sign him this summer.
Pat Maroon, LW
2018-19: 10 G, 18 A, 28 PTS in 74 GP
Just coming off winning a Stanley Cup victory for his hometown St. Louis Blues, Maroon would bring experience to a mostly youthful Sabres lineup along with postseason success. There has been additions made on the wings this offseason, which included acquiring Jimmy Vesey, and has led to conversations of moving players to their off side on the wing, but Maroon would be a welcome addition to this organization.
Justin Williams, RW
2018-19: 23 G, 30 A, 53 PTS in 82 GP
After leading the Hurricanes to the playoffs for the first time in a decade and helping them reach the Conference Finals, Williams, although entering his age-38 season this fall, has proved to still be productive in the NHL. Although it’s unlikely Williams will leave Carolina in free agency, he would be a good addition for Buffalo, and his goal total from last year would be reflective, which would have ranked third on the team, providing the Sabres with much-needed scoring and veteran leadership to their lineup.
Brian Boyle, C
2018-19: 18 G, 6 A, 24 PTS in 73 GP
Although this is a unique option for the Sabres, adding a veteran like Boyle, whose experience would help the team, especially with depth down the middle and the development of Casey Mittlestadt, heading into his second full season. Whether he would play most of the year on the second line or have a bottom six role while preparing Mittlestadt for the added responsibility. Even with turning 35 in December, he still has the ability to play in the NHL and contribute to a team next year.
Other notable names:
Thomas Vanek, LW
2018-19: 16 G, 20 A, 36 PTS in 64 GP
A consistent goal-scorer throughout his career, Vanek has been productive everywhere he’s been and would continue that trend, if there is room on the current roster. While a reunion with the Sabres is rather unlikely, with 373 career goals in 1,029 games played, he would be impactful in a third-line capacity along with helping the team’s young core going forward.
Ben Hutton, LHD
2018-19: 5 G, 15 A, 20 PTS in 69 GP
With the exception of the 2017-18 season, Hutton has been productive in the league, averaging 21 points during three of his first four seasons. With the lack of depth on the left side of the blue line, a player of Hutton’s caliber, even on the third pairing, could an improvement over our current defensive personnel, and the fact he is entering his age-26 season could also make him an intriguing option for the Sabres.