Sabres Free Agent Targets – Defensemen and Goalies

The acquisition of Dmitir Kulikov balanced out the pairs on Buffalo’s blueline and may leave Tim Murray done for the offseason when it comes to his defense corps. However, he hasn’t found a true puck mover for his power play and it would seem advantageous to acquire at least one more body to fill that role.

The market really thinned out when Alex Goligoski and Keith Yandle signed their respective deals. Perhaps the Sabres just wait until Brendan Guhle is ready for NHL time, maybe that even means this season. Given the thin market, Murray may simply choose to add depth, but there are a couple attractive options available, including two listed here.

Additionally, the Sabres are without a backup goaltender at this moment. Assuming Linus Ullmark will play another season in Rochester, the Sabres will be looking for a replacement for Chad Johnson. Those options remain far more plentiful than along the blueline as free agency approaches.

Brian Campbell

5’10” – 192 lbs – 5/23/1979

GP          G             A             PTS
1002       82           405         487         Fancy Stats

Fit: Middle Pair D

Breakdown: One of the few question marks with the Kulikov trade was how exactly the Sabres blueline will look. Kulikov will certainly slot in with Rasmus Ristolainen but he maybe wasn’t the true top-pair talent some expected or hoped for. That leaves Jake McCabe and Josh Gorges to fill out the other two pairs, so signing Campbell would bump one of those two to the press box.

Campbell would be able to contribute on the power play while also adding some mobility to whichever pair he wound up on. I suspect that he will be looking for either a decent payday or one final look at the Cup (hi, Chicago). So perhaps the Sabres aren’t a fit in the end. However, he would certainly be a worthwhile body to take a long look at.

 

Torrey Krug (RFA)

5’9” – 186 lbs – 4/12/1991

GP          G             A             PTS
241         30           95           125         Fancy Stats

Fit: Top 4 D

Breakdown: Krug is a tough call as a restricted free agent who the Bruins will most certainly qualify. So he’s more of a trade target than free agent target. He would add a playmaking skillset which Tim Murray has been looking for, although he would potentially clog things up a bit not unlike signing Brian Campbell would.

Tendering him an offer sheet is obviously foolish but if there’s a cheap deal to be worked out (unlikely) I’d be all for it.

Patrick Wiercioch

6’5” – 202 lbs – 9/12/1990

GP          G             A             PTS
211         12           50           62           Fancy Stats

Fit: Depth D

Breakdown: Wiercioch offers solid upside from an analytic perspective but never really saw serious deployment during his time in Ottawa. He wasn’t tendered a contract this year, making him a free agent and he would be a good addition for depth on the left side, at the very least.

At only 25 years old, he still has room to grow and he could be something of a reclamation project for the Sabres. He isn’t going to produce offensively though, and while he’d bring some quality depth to the left side, he doesn’t bring the puck moving ability Murray is likely still seeking.

 

Carter Hutton

6’1” – 201 lbs – 12/19/1985

2015-16 stats

GP          GAA       SV%       W-L-OT
17           2.33        .918        7-5-3

Hutton gave the Predators 17 good games last year, recording a career best in GAA and save percentage. He’s played over 20 games just once as a professional, but he’s a strong puck handler and has proven to be a capable backup to a franchise number one. Ideally you want between 20 and 28 games from Hutton and if he can maintain his numbers from last year he’d be a good signing for a team like Buffalo looking for a stable backup.

Al Montoya

6’2” – 203 lbs – 2/13/1985

2015-16 stats

GP          GAA       SV%       W-L-OT
25           2.18        .919        12-7-2

Montoya was a contributor and beneficiary of the division champion Florida Panthers’ run last season. He recorded his best numbers as a professional and played in 20 or more games for the third-straight season. He’s a proven commodity as a backup and if he can keep his GAA below 2.50, you’re likely going to get 20-30 really good games from him.

The only issue is the yo-yo effect in his numbers. He’s followed every strong season with a down year numbers-wise. Last year’s spike followed a year in which he posted a 3.01 GAA, .892 SV% and 6-7-2 record. His numbers really go as the team goes which isn’t too surprising for a backup. Staying in the East and coming to a team committed to stabilizing their own end ought to provide Montoya with the foundation to continue his strong play from last year.

Chad Johnson

6’3” – 196 lbs – 6/10/1986

2015-16 stats

GP          GAA       SV%       W-L-OT
45           2.36        .920        22-16-1

Ochocinco stepped into Robin Lenher’s shoes less than 40 minutes into the season and filled the role of starter admirably. His posted career-best numbers in every category and established himself as a potential hot ticket this summer. However, the expansion draft and a saturated goalie market may affect his market value.

His hometown team acquired Brian Elliott at the draft and Ben Bishop and Marc-Andre Fluery are both rumored to be on the move. Johnson could do far worse than a two-year deal with the Sabres which would see him backing up Lehner while Linus Ullmark develops. His hope is to be a starter but I’m just not sure there are any jobs available to him this summer.

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