Kyle Okposo came over from the New York Islanders and was nearly a point-per-game player. He’s only surpassed 20 goals in a season three times, but he was in the 50-60 point range for a few seasons with linemate John Tavares.
It’s clear that Okposo isn’t the same player that he was. He had two mediocre seasons, and I could deal with those numbers, but the last two he has scored 23 goals and 25 assists in 130 games. That’s about 0.37 points per game.
His role has definitely been reduced and he’s not getting opportunities with elite linemates as he did on Long Island.
He also has had some concussion issues and had an extremely scary time where he was hospitalized and couldn’t form a sentence nor recognize his own family members. Read more about that in an article on The Athletic here.
Okposo has slipped down the depth chart and now the Sabres are paying $6M for each of the next three seasons for a fourth-line forward.
We can live with the fact that the contract was awful and now he’s massively overpaid. But Okposo did actually carve out a decent role last season, although it didn’t translate to more points.
With a new GM at the helm, I have to wonder if Kevyn Adams would consider buying out Okposo.
Teams can’t conduct buyouts until after the Stanley Cup has been awarded, so there isn’t a set date at this time.
Okposo is 32 years old and has already seen a steep decline in production. One could argue that he brings great veteran leadership and experience, maybe. At what point do we worry about paying $6M for a player who projects for around 15 goals and 35 points?
Buying him out doesn’t help immensely, but this team needs change and there are other players out there who the Sabres could sign with the money they save.
A buyout would save the Sabres $2M in cap space in 2020-21, $1M in 2021-22, and $3M in 2022-23. After that, Okposo would still have $1M against the cap for the following three years.
It saves the Sabres a little money in each of the next three years, but is it worth buying him out if it’s only that much?
It’s tough to say when teams have to sign their pending UFAs by since we don’t even know when the season will start or end. There are also play-in and playoff rounds to be played, so these players I’m about to mention could impact their own future contract. And of course, they can always resign with their current team.
Erik Haula – Here’s a player who hasn’t really had consistent playing time for the same team since his career year in Las Vegas back in 2017-18 when he had 55 points (29 goals, 26 assists) in 72 games.
Since then, he’s been injured and moved to Carolina and Florida and is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent unless the Panthers sign him.
At 29 years old, it’s not fair to expect 55 points again in a season from him, but somewhere around 40 isn’t out of the question. He made $2.75M last year, and will likely get less with a new signing.
A healthy Haula with consistent playing time could help provide a small uptick in points for a much cheaper cost.
Pat Maroon – This addition wouldn’t be to increase offensive point totals. He may project for 30 points, which is still a bit high. But the 6’2″, 236 lb forward would still be an upgrade over Okposo. Maroon isn’t afraid to drop the gloves and the Sabres could use a bigger and tougher player in their lineup. Oh, and he has won a Stanley Cup.
Maroon made $900K last year, and even a decent increase there wouldn’t be a bad idea. He’s jumped from Edmonton to New Jersey to St. Louis to Tampa Bay all in the last few years. The Sabres could go offer him a 2-3 year deal with the money they saved on an Okposo buyout.
Mike Hoffman – There’s nothing cheap about trying to get a player who has at least 56 points in each of the last five seasons. The biggest worry about signing a player like this is that a team may overpay for him, and the Sabres can’t afford to do that (i.e. Jeff Skinner).
Hoffman will be 31 years old in November and would be great on a 2-3 years contract. He made $5.1M last year, and that’s around what I’d want him to sign for, but teams could easily bump that to $6M or higher.
This is a much bigger signing that would allow for the other forwards to slide down the depth chart, which could go a long way. But getting a player this expensive would almost have to see someone else get traded.
All three of those options depend on if any of them even become UFAs, but they are just a few examples of players that could help replace Okposo in the case of a buyout.
Since we’re in a very uncertain time right now, maybe buying out Okposo is not the right move. The Sabres have some cap room, so it could make more sense to just get through the next three years with Okposo and hope he ends up being a decent fourth-line player. Any improvement he makes would be considered a bonus, especially since we have much lower expectations for him now.