The Biggest Need For The Buffalo Sabres This Off-Season
The 2021-2022 NHL campaign is almost over. The Colorado Avalanche has a 2-1 games lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Final.
The Buffalo Sabres missed the postseason for the 11th straight season, and while the team has traded away the likes of Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart since last July, the team has tons of hope entering the 2022-2023 season.
Realistically, the Sabres are still a year or two away from being a playoff contender, but they have a core of young players who should factor into the long-term plans and be important players in playoff runs: Tage Thompson, Dylan Cozens, Rasmus Dahlin, Owen Power, Mattias Samuelsson, Peyton Krebs.
That doesn't even count JJ Peterka and Jack Quinn, who were two of the best players in the AHL last season, as well as other prospects like Isak Rosen, Ryan Johnson and Alexander Kisakov.
The Sabres have two outstanding goaltending prospects with Devon Levi and Erik Portillo. Levi plays at Northeastern University, while Portillo plays at the University of Michigan.
Levi and Portillo will stay in school next season, which means the Sabres still have the biggest need on the team in 2022 -- goaltending.
Last season, most of the games were split by 40-year-old Craig Anderson and veteran journeyman, Dustin Tokarski.
Anderson and Tokarski are unrestricted free agents next month, as is Malcolm Subban, who Buffalo traded for in December. Anderson might retire and there's almost no chance Tokarski and Subban are back.
If all three are gone, that means Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen is the only goaltender who is going to be back on the roster in 2022-2023, although he is a RFA.
Luukkonen might be the primary starter in net for Buffalo, but they have nothing else behind him; and the play from Anderson and Tokarski simply wasn't good enough.
The Sabres could find ways to get salary to get to the cap floor (taking on dead contracts, etc.), but general manager Kevyn Adams absolutely needs to sign or trade for a goaltender to at least split time with Luukkonen next season.
Darcy Keumper, Jack Campbell and Ville Husso are the top options on the open market, but perhaps trading for one is a viable option as well.
The Sabres need to have a stop gap for the next two or three seasons, until Levi (or Portillo) is ready to be the full-time guy in Buffalo.