Today marks the opening of free agency in the NHL and while the Draft has evolved into the far more interesting swap-meet, the opening of free agency still promises plenty of exciting deals and the opportunity for teams to revamp their rosters.
Here in Great Skate’s neck of the woods, the Buffalo Sabres are expected to remain active after pulling off a pair of big trades on draft day while coming away with Jack Eichel who ought to become the face of their franchise almost overnight.
The Sabres are still in need of help along the blueline and perhaps even up front. They’ll also need to secure some depth and help for their minor league team in Rochester, but the primary focus will be placed on the free agent market. Here are a few names the Sabres will (or should) be considering.
He’s been on the lips of many Sabres fans recently as his time spent with Dan Bylsma isn’t being discounted one bit. He made $5m last year and still offers a quality two-way element that if deployed on Buffalo’s second pairing could be a fine addition to the team.
The challenges on Martin are two-fold. He’s creeping up on his late 30s which means he will likely want to go to an established competitor while also securing his established market rate. For the Sabres, offering him a longer deal to potentially buy him away from a contender could put them in cap jail in a few years if Martin sticks around. However, Martin has shown the ability to carry significant minutes the last few seasons with very little side effects. Bet on a two or three-year deal at $5m for the Sabres to be in the running for Martin.
Oduya is going to be a very popular option on the free agent market as he’s collected a pair of Stanley Cups in the last three years and managed added minutes very well in the playoffs. While he’s starting to age a bit, he’s still shown the ability to be a quality contributor.
Oduya is a terrific skater who would slot in well on Buffalo’s second pair. He likely has a similar point of view as Martin as he may prefer an established contender. While his deal this year was below $4m annually, I would expect the Sabres need to push to that $4m floor to ensure they could grab him for three years.
Alec Martinez (trade)
This is more of a pie-in-the-sky idea, but it’s something I’m very keen on. At one point, some were discussing that Martinez could be moved in order to accommodate for cap concerns in Los Angeles. That’s not likely the case anymore and attempting to snag Martinez in a trade could be a challenge.
Martinez is a solid two-way threat who could not only fill a vital role for the Sabres next year but his age would keep him in the fold for the foreseeable future. I’d expect the Sabres would need to dangle a young forward like Marcus Foligno or Johan Larsson along with a mid-round draft pick to land the man who scored the Cup winning goal in 2014.
The 2009 Columbus first rounder hasn’t really found his way in the NHL, but he’s carved out a role as a bottom pair contributor who can skate like the wind. Moore is more of an offensive threat than a stout defender, but in sheltered minutes he could offer the Sabres a fair bit of offense from the third pair.
As a lefty who was just allowed to walk by the Coyotes, Moore could combine with the likes of Mike Weber and perhaps Mark Pysyk on the third pair to form a quality pairing that could offer a bit more offense when Moore was dressed or a bit more grit if Weber was dressed. A two-year deal at $1m would be a significant raise for Moore and would give the Sabres a smart, third pair signing.
Much in the mold of Paul Martin, Williams would be a terrific signing but it may be tough to lure the aging, three-time Cup winner away from a contender. Williams will likely need a contract north of $4.5m and at least three years from the Sabres to come east. If they landed him, Williams would offer the Sabres’ top six a terrific veteran presence as the group begins to mature.
Williams is a terrific option who may be tough to land simply because he’s coming off two Cups with the Kings and may prefer to stay in the Stanley Cup hunt. As improved as the Sabres have become they still need to go a little further to start really becoming a free agent destination.
A personal favorite, Frolik is an impressive middle-six winger who could flip to the left or right side (in a pinch). His possession numbers are terrific and he’s coming off of a playoff run with the Jets. He’s a terrific penalty killer and would be a nice addition for the Sabres.
Frolik also happens to be the most attractive free agent option this year. He’s likely going to get a long, lucrative deal and while the Sabres have the space to grab him, I’m unsure if they want to devote a five year deal to any free agents.
Also, take a look at what these guys wear on the ice, you can find every piece of equipment worn by the pros at Great Skate.