Sabres offseason roadmap, part 3: Fixing Buffalo’s depth chart with trades and free agents


Staff member

I guess they skipped part 2?

Buffalo Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams was talking about the possibility of a Jeff Skinner buyout at his pre-draft press conference last week, but the quote could have applied to Buffalo’s offseason as a whole: “Nothing is off the table.”

Adams is about to enter the busiest and most important offseason he’s had as GM of the Sabres. And while he was short on specifics regarding some of the biggest questions his team is facing over the next couple of weeks, Adams made it clear the Sabres are open for business. He stated he’s open to trading the No. 11 pick, trading prospects, moving up in the draft or moving down.

That’s the only approach Adams can afford to take entering his fifth season as GM. New coach Lindy Ruff has been heavily involved in self-scouting the Sabres’ personnel and identifying the areas in need of improvement. He’ll be able to help identify the type of players who can shake up Buffalo’s roster for the better.

But the Sabres have a lot to accomplish over the next couple of weeks. That’s what makes it a particularly difficult offseason to predict. What trades might Adams be able to pull off? Will Ruff’s presence help convince free agents to take a chance on the Sabres? Here’s a look at how I would reshape the Sabres roster through free agency, trades and the draft.

The in-house business

Extend Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen for four years and $4.5 million per year
Qualify Henri Jokiharju at $2.6 million
Qualify Peyton Krebs at $874,000
Don’t qualify Jacob Bryson, Kale Clague
Let Zemgus Girgensons, Victor Olofsson, Tyson Jost and Eric Robinson hit free agency

Some of this is a slight adjustment from our salary-cap rundown last week. We’re extending Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen for four years at $4.5 million per season working off the framework the Minnesota Wild used for Filip Gustavsson’s three-year contract with a $3.75 million cap hit. Luukkonen showed he can be an NHL starter down the stretch last season, and while the sample size is small, Luukkonen should have more room to get better. This contract is a nice middle ground for the two sides. Depending on how long the Sabres wait, the goalie market could change this summer and the number could go up.

Henri Jokiharju gets his scheduled qualifying offer and Peyton Krebs gets a one-year deal slightly higher than his qualifying offer. If either player comes up in trade conversations, that’s something the Sabres should explore. But keeping these players isn’t the end of the world. Jokiharju is a capable, right-shot defenseman. Ideally, the Sabres would find another veteran defenseman to add a more physical element to the blue line and move Jokiharju out as part of a trade.

Buyout Jeff Skinner

Adams was non-committal when talking about the rumors of a Jeff Skinner buyout. He said the Sabres are open to everything and that he didn’t want to get into specifics. He could have shot down the rumors but elected not to. Read into that what you will. We went through the pros and cons of the buyout here, but I think it’s a worthwhile move. Buying out Skinner creates $7.5 million in cap space for this season. There are a few tougher years on the contract the Sabres will have to deal with, but the flexibility in the lineup and on the salary cap are worth it.


Center Radek Faksa for a fourth-round pick and Henri Jokiharju

Radek Faksa is just the type of player the Sabres are missing in their bottom six. He’s excellent at faceoffs, willing to throw his body around on the forecheck and plays a reliable defensive game. He’s not the flashiest offensive player, but Adams has stressed the need for the bottom two lines to have more “identity” and Ruff has emphasized the need for better team defense. Faksa could help on either the third or fourth line. He played for Ruff early in his career in Dallas, too. Given their cap situation and Faksa’s $3.25 million cap hit, the Stars might be willing to move him for the right price.

Winger Andrew Mangiapane for Peyton Krebs and a third-round pick

The dream trade target from the Calgary Flames would be winger Blake Coleman. He’s 32 years old, signed for a reasonable $4.9 million cap hit and coming off a career-best season in terms of production. His leadership, physicality and defensive play would be an ideal fit in Buffalo’s locker room. But Calgary may not be in a rush to trade one of the team’s most reliable veterans while going through a transition. Andrew Mangiapane may be an easier trade target coming off a couple of down seasons and at a $5.8 million cap hit. Using money from the Skinner savings, the Sabres move Peyton Krebs and a third-round pick to get Mangiapane. It’s worth pointing out that Mangiapane had a great World Championship playing alongside Dylan Cozens for Team Canada. His ability to win battles and play a smart, 200-foot game would be a welcome addition to the Sabres’ young second line.


Teddy Blueger is a reliable penalty killer who could give the Sabres flexibility and defensive play in the bottom six. (Steve Roberts / USA Today)

Free-agent signings

Teddy Blueger, two years, $2.75 million

Teddy Blueger isn’t a major point producer with a career-high 28, but he’s the type of player who could give the Sabres flexibility and reliable defensive play in the bottom six. He can add competition at center, which is needed, but also play on the wing if needed. He’s a willing checker, a consistent net-front presence and a reliable penalty killer. He’s also great on faceoffs. Maybe his market value pushes his contract higher than this, but the Sabres are in a position to outbid if necessary. I’d be comfortable going to $3 million and adding an extra year.

Winger Ryan Lomberg for one year, $1.5 million per year

Ryan Lomberg has been a healthy scratch for the Panthers at times during the playoffs, but they put him back in the lineup for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final. His energy and tenacity are always going to stand out. He’s a nuisance to play against; he’s more than willing to hit and drive the net to create traffic. He has three straight seasons with at least 100 hits. He’d be a plug-and-play fourth-liner for the Sabres. While $1.5 million is more than AFP Analytics projects for Lomberg, the Sabres might have to sweeten the deal to get him to Buffalo.

Kiefer Sherwood, two years, $2 million per year

Kiefer Sherwood is coming off a career-best season in which he had 27 points in 68 games and was a plus-17 playing for the Nashville Predators. He’s a checking machine who would help the Sabres’ bottom six play with more physicality, which is needed.

Jani Hakanpaa for two years, $2 million per year

Jani Hakanpaa is a massive presence at 6-foot-7 and his game matches that size. He had two straight seasons of over 200 hits before laying 179 hits this season in an injury-shortened year. He’s not a flashy signing but one who could add needed depth for the Sabres on defense.

Depth chart


JJ PeterkaTage ThompsonAlex Tuch
Andrew Mangiapane – Dylan Cozens – Jack Quinn
Zach Benson – Teddy Blueger – Kiefer Sherwood
Jordan Greenway – Radek Faksa- Ryan Lomberg
Lukas Rousek Jiri Kulich


Bo Byram – Rasmus Dahlin
Mattias SamuelssonOwen Power
Ryan Johnson/Connor Clifton/Jani Hakanpaa


Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Devon Levi

Future outlook

This roster would leave the Sabres with a little over $5 million in cap space for the 2023-24 season, giving Adams plenty of flexibility to make an in-season move if needed. Jiri Kulich and Lukas Rousek are extras on the depth chart we sketched out, but the idea is to have competition and lineup options at forward. Maybe Lomberg and Sherwood aren’t every-night players. Injuries happen, too. Kulich could also still spend time in Rochester and come up as needed. I included him here because I think he’s ready to contribute at the NHL level and has rounded out his game away from the puck enough to play a third-line role.

This would leave the Sabres with between $25-30 million in cap space for the 2025-26 season, depending on how much the cap goes up. That’s important because JJ Peterka, Bowen Byram, Jack Quinn and Devon Levi will all be needing new contracts after this season. Mangiapane and Faksa have expiring contracts here, too, which is worth noting. So do Connor Clifton and Jordan Greenway. The Sabres need to consider those upcoming contracts in everything they do this summer. In this scenario, the Sabres should have the flexibility to take care of their young players and keep a player like Mangiapane around.

What about the No. 11 pick?

The Sabres shouldn’t feel like they need to force a trade with the No. 11 pick. Mangiapane would be an impactful addition to the lineup and shouldn’t cost that type of asset. If they keep the pick, I’d be targeting Tij Iginla, if he falls, and then looking at a tier of players that includes forwards Cole Eiserman, Berkly Catton, Konsta Helenius and Michael Brandsegg-Nygard along with defensemen Sam Dickinson and Carter Yakemchuk. Given the unpredictable nature of this draft after the top five picks, it’s tough to peg which of those players might fall to Buffalo. Sabres assistant GM Jerry Forton said it is his goal to minimize risk in the first round, so maybe Eiserman isn’t a clear fit, but he’d be my target. Otherwise, a defenseman like Yakemchuk or Dickinson would make a nice addition to the prospect pool. I also like the two-way game Helenius has displayed against men in Finland.