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Buffalo Sabres 2023-24 roster tiers: Where each player stands entering the offseason


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The Buffalo Sabres’ latest loss to the Montreal Canadiens felt like a gut punch for their already slim playoff hopes. Buffalo lost a 3-2, third-period lead and then lost out on a crucial second point by losing a six-round shootout.

They’re now five points out with nine games to play. This team has shown it can go on a run, but that’s a lot of ground to make up in a short period of time. Regardless of where they end up in the standings, the Sabres’ final nine games will give the front office a final chance to evaluate the players on the roster before making decisions about the future of the team.

With that in mind, we’ve broken the players down into tiers. We have those who are core players and locked into contracts, core players who need a contract, potential core players, players who are under contract and part of the plan, players who are under contract with something to prove, free agents and prospects who could earn a spot.

Here’s a breakdown of where the Sabres’ roster stands with the homestretch of the season approaching.

Core players under contract

Tage Thompson

Kevyn Adams looks brilliant for locking up Tage Thompson at a $7.1 million cap hit for the next seven seasons. That contract starts next year and already looks like a bargain. Thompson has 44 goals and 89 points in 72 games this season, adding to his breakout totals that earned him the extension.

Dylan Cozens

During the All-Star break, Dylan Cozens signed a seven-year extension worth just over $7 million per season that will kick in next year. Cozens has had a breakout season with 28 goals and 20 of those have come at five-on-five. It’s easy to see there’s more to his game, too. Cozens has become a leader and the type of two-way player who can lock down the No. 2 center spot behind Thompson.

Alex Tuch

Despite missing time with an injury, Alex Tuch is third on the team with 69 points in 65 games. Don Granato has repeatedly said he thinks Tuch has another level to his offensive game, and the veteran winger is showing that this season. He’s under contract at $4.75 million per season for three more seasons after this one, which is a terrific value for Buffalo.

Mattias Samuelsson

Mattias Samuelsson has dealt with two separate injuries this season, and his value is obvious when he’s not playing. The Sabres are 7-15-3 with Samuelsson out of the lineup this season. He’s a long-term fixture in the top four of Buffalo’s defensive depth chart and the perfect complement to Rasmus Dahlin on the top pair. His $4.2 million cap hit will look more and more reasonable as time goes on.

Jeff Skinner

Jeff Skinner’s contract makes him a core player by default. He’s under contract at a $9 million cap hit for four more seasons and turns 31 in a few months. Fortunately for the Sabres, Skinner has revived his offensive game under Don Granato. He’s been a point-per-game player with 31 goals and 39 assists in 70 games this season. The Sabres also have 55 percent of the goals for when Skinner is on the ice at five-on-five, according to Natural Stat Trick. That number leads the team. He helps make up one of the best lines in hockey with Thompson and Tuch and plays a game that should age well in future seasons.

Sabres forwards via CapFriendly.com

Core players who need a new deal

Rasmus Dahlin

As good as Thompson has been this season, Dahlin is the team’s most valuable player. He’s emerged as a legitimate Norris Trophy candidate and not just because of his offense. He has 65 points in 69 games but also has become a lockdown defensive player. Next season is the final year of his contract, and the Sabres will want to prioritize getting him locked up long-term. His cap hit will likely come in around $10 million given the way he’s developed over the last two seasons.

Owen Power

Owen Power needed only one full NHL season to establish himself as part of the team’s core. He had moments where he looked like a first-year player, but those moments were infrequent. Power leads the team in five-on-five ice time and also has the highest on-ice goals-for percentage at five-on-five among Sabres defensemen, according to Natural Stat Trick. He’s everything the Sabres hoped for in a No. 1 pick and he’s only getting started. The Sabres can begin negotiating a new deal with him this offseason and if he’s willing, Adams shouldn’t hesitate to lock him up long-term.

Rising potential core players

Jack Quinn

Jack Quinn has lived up to expectations as a rookie. He has 14 goals and 21 assists and that feels like just the start of what he can produce at this level. What’s been most impressive is he’s not just generating offense, he’s playing a strong game at both ends of the ice. The way he’s played the last few weeks, it’s fair to pencil him into the team’s core.

JJ Peterka

JJ Peterka hasn’t been as consistent as Quinn, but the flashes of potential have been there. At the very least, he looks like someone who could be a useful player on the third line. But he also has the potential to factor into the top six going forward if he takes another step next season. The line of Cozens, Quinn and Peterka has been exciting to watch at times this season.

Peyton Krebs

Peyton Krebs re-invented himself a bit this season, putting emphasis on simplifying his game and being sound defensively. As a result, he’s found a home in the bottom six and looks like he could be the third-line center of the future. He has a lot of high-end skill, too, and the Sabres are hopeful that will come out more and more as he gains experience.

Under contract and part of the plan

Jordan Greenway

The Sabres didn’t trade for Jordan Greenway for him to be a rental. He’s been banged up since he got to Buffalo, but Granato sees untapped potential in the physical winger. With the assets the team gave up, Greenway is firmly in the plans for 2023-24.

Casey Mittelstadt

Much of what Casey Mittelestadt does flies under the radar. He may not be the flashiest offensive player or one who has lived up to the billing as a top-10 pick, but Mittelstadt has value as a third-line winger. He’s under contract at a reasonable $2.5 million cap hit and will be a restricted free agent after that. Unless there’s a worthy trade offer, it feels like Mittelstadt is part of the plan in Buffalo at least for next season.

Henri Jokiharju

With a cap hit of $2.5 million through next season, Henri Jokiharju will likely have a spot on Buffalo’s roster unless a worthy trade partner materializes. Jokiharju is still young and has been up and down this season. But if the Sabres can put him on the third pair, he may see more success. The Sabres don’t have enough depth on defense to cast aside a player like Jokiharju without a plan.

Ilya Lyubushkin

Ever since he got fully healthy, Ilya Lyubushkin has been a steady presence on Buffalo’s blue line. He’s well-liked in the room, adds a nastiness on the ice and has fit well in Buffalo. He has one more year on his deal, so the Sabres should keep him around.

Sabres defense and goalies via CapFriendly.com

Under contract with something to prove

Riley Stillman

In 11 games, the Sabres have 53 percent of the expected goals and 60 percent of the shot attempts when Riley Stillman is on the ice at five-on-five. He’s given them another physical player on the blue line and has a reasonable cap hit next season. He should have a strong chance to make the roster, but everyone on the blue line has something to prove heading into next season.

Jacob Bryson

Jacob Bryson has had an uneven season. He’s minus 25 and has a 46-percent expected goal share at five-on-five. He makes $1.8 million next season but will need to earn a spot.

Eric Comrie

This season hasn’t gone as planned for Eric Comrie. Two injuries robbed him of any sort of rhythm and he hasn’t gotten a chance to cement himself as a worthy No. 1 goalie heading into next season. He shouldn’t be written off, but the Sabres need to look hard at their goalie options this offseason.

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen

The Sabres planned for Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen to spend the season in the AHL, but he got called up when Comrie was injured and he didn’t look back. His first full season with the Sabres has been up and down. He’ll be with the big club next season, but he may not have a chance to start as many games if Buffalo can find an upgrade in net.

Victor Olofsson

Victor Olofsson is a prime trade candidate for the Sabres. He makes $4.75 million and was recently a healthy scratch, so the writing appears to be on the wall. Olofsson is a proven goal scorer, but the Sabres could use a more well-rounded player in that spot of their lineup.

Restricted free agents

Tyson Jost

The Sabres recently rotated Tyson Jost out of the lineup, but he’s been a solid bottom-six player for them since he was acquired on waivers. The team gets more chances than it allows when he’s on the ice at five-on-five and he seems to make those around him better. Finding a spot for him on the team next season makes sense.

Kale Clague

Kale Clague started the year in the AHL but has since found a permanent home in the NHL. His underlying numbers have been strong, but he hasn’t been in the lineup often when everyone else is healthy. That could make him expendable if the Sabres make an upgrade on defense.

Unrestricted free agents

Kyle Okposo

This is the final year of the first contract Kyle Okposo signed with the Sabres. If Okposo wants to continue playing, it’s hard to imagine him doing it somewhere other than Buffalo. The team captain is a valued leader and has shown he can still be a useful player in the right role. I’d expect the two sides to have an honest conversation about where he fits into the picture.

“I’m going to play as long as my body tells me I can,” Okposo told me in February. “And I’m not going to overstay my welcome, either. These kids are a lot more talented than I have ever been in my life. So I want to make sure to give the next generation ample opportunities.”

Craig Anderson

With a crowded goalie picture, bringing back Craig Anderson might be tough. There’s also a decent chance he calls it a career. He’s only been able to play about once a week and he’s been living away from his family this season as they’ve stayed in Florida. All signs would point toward retirement.

Zemgus Girgensons

Zemgus Girgensons has spent his entire career with the Sabres and will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. He could test the market and get interest from a Cup contender looking to add a reliable bottom-six player. But the Sabres could also use that type of player as they inch closer to being a contender.

Vinnie Hinostroza

Vinnie Hinostroza has bounced between the AHL and NHL this season but hasn’t gotten consistent playing time because of how Buffalo’s younger players have performed. With even more young talent ready to enter the NHL, the Sabres likely won’t have room for Hinostroza moving forward.

Prospects who could factor in

Jiri Kulich

Jiri Kulich has been a star in the AHL at 18 years old. He has 40 points in 55 games and has become just the fourth player in AHL history to score at least 20 goals in his under-19 season. He’s looked mature for his age at every step of the process and should have a legitimate chance to make the roster out of training camp next season.

Lukas Rousek

Lukas Rousek made his NHL debut against the Canadiens on Monday and had a goal and an assist. Granato has praised his situational awareness and competitive nature. The Sabres may want to make room for him on the roster next season because he looks like he’s ready to make an impact.

Devon Levi

Devon Levi should get to make his NHL debut in the final few weeks of the season, but there remains a strong chance he will play in the AHL next year. It’s not common for a goalie to jump right into the NHL on a full-time basis in his first season of professional hockey. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen, but the Sabres shouldn’t bank on that.

Matt Savoie

Given his age, Matt Savoie either needs to stay in the WHL next season or be on the NHL roster. He can’t play in the AHL. He’s had another great season in the WHL and has been especially productive since the calendar flipped to 2023. With a healthy offseason, Savoie could come to camp stronger and earn a spot on the roster. His play style will be a welcome addition to the lineup whenever he does reach the NHL.

Isak Rosen

Isak Rosen has performed well in his first AHL season, scoring 11 goals and adding 21 assists in 57 games. Because of a lack of open roster spots and his need to get strong, Rosen will most likely need another year in the AHL before he’s ready to jump into the Sabres’ lineup.

“There he goes. One of God's own prototypes.

A high-powered mutant of some kind, never even considered for mass production.

Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”

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