The Buffalo Sabres have come to terms with free agent forward Kyle Okposo. He has signed a seven-year deal worth $42 million.
The addition of Okposo fills a major hole in the Sabres top-six. At age 28, he is in the prime of his career and should contribute immediately on both the power-play and at even strength. He projects to flank Ryan O’Reilly on the first line.
O’Reilly lacked consistent partners on the wing last season and the addition of Okposo will allow him to establish chemistry with a proven scoring threat. There is also a possibility Okposo ends up on Jack Eichel’s line, but given Eichel’s growing rapport with Sam Reinhart, that seems less likely.
Okposo has been extremely reliable on offense, registering over 50 points in each of the past three seasons. While it seems to have taken him a bit longer than expected to reach his first round pedigree (selected 7th overall in 2006), an improvement in consistency has taken place over the last few campaigns. At 6’0” and 217 lbs, he serves as a gritty power winger who is not afraid to battle for the puck.
After Steven Stamkos elected to return to the Tampa Bay Lightning, Okposo became the hot name on the market whom many teams turned their sights toward as the next best option. While this move does not have the same luster as some fans were hoping for with Stamkos, an addition needed to be made to help bolster the Sabres top scoring lines.
There are some who claim Okposo’s recent production is a direct result of playing alongside John Tavares however, he spent a majority of his time alongside Frans Nielsen last year and was able to maintain his scoring output. It must also be taken into account that he played an average of 18:12 per game, which is over a minute less than the season prior.
While his production is difficult to criticize, Okposo needs to remain healthy on a consistent basis. While he only missed three games last year, he has missed 68 games due to injury over the past four seasons. His ability to stay in the lineup will be critical if the Sabres expect to see their investment pay off.
To some, this move is reminiscent of the Matt Moulson acquisition which has left fans with a bad taste for Islanders forwards. Like Okposo, Moulson came off of several extremely productive seasons with New York before coming to the Sabres where he has thus far failed to reach the expectations that accompany a five year, $25 million deal.
It must be taken into consideration that Moulson was brought in to carry the load offensively on a team with very few point producers. Okposo will face much less pressure on a team with several scoring threats in the top-six. Time will tell how this one will play out, but Tim Murray got who he wanted. The rest is up to Okposo and the coaching staff.