Buffalo Sabres: What’s the Big Deal About Johan Larsson?


Buffalo Sabres: What’s the Big Deal About Johan Larsson?

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The Buffalo Sabres made another roster move on Friday, signing Johan Larsson to a one-year contract for $800,000. From listening to the reaction, fans appear split on the deal.

For everyone who considers this a smart move, there are just as many people who say it represents a low level signing. For each person who believes Larsson is capable of becoming a regular third-liner, there is someone who think his signing is barely worth reporting.

The question is, what does the re-signing of the Swedish player mean for the team? Well, the fact that the deal is a one-way contract is telling – the Sabres are effectively saying they expect Larsson to play in the NHL during the 2015-16 season.

Mar 17, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Buffalo Sabres left wing Johan Larsson (22) and Boston Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton (27) battle for the puck during the second period at TD Banknorth Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

In many respects, the 22-year old earned this show of faith from Buffalo, after his performance in the NHL last season. He ended up playing 39 games at the top level, compiling six goals and 10 assists along the way.

What makes this more impressive, is that Larsson had the opportunity to play top line minutes towards the end of the 2014-15 campaign. He scored 14 points in his final 19 games of the season, and posted an even rating – no small feat when you consider the Sabres finished bottom of the standings.

In fact, the more you look at it, perhaps the only surprise is that the former Minnesota Wild player wasn’t given a longer contract. Regardless, he seems happy with the deal.

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As reported by The Buffalo News, Larsson said: “Sure it is good money, but for me this is mainly that I will now be able to continue playing hockey with a very exciting team with new players and (a) new coach. It will be an exciting season.”

It is interesting that the 2010 second round draft pick makes reference to his new coach, due to his problems with former Sabres head coach, Ted Nolan. Larsson complained back in January about how he was being used, after being limited to the fourth line in Buffalo.

Nolan was not impressed with this public criticism, and told him to prove himself. As per the aforementioned 14 points in 19 games, I think it’s safe to say Larsson did just that.

However, despite the new regime, last season probably had an influence on negotiations from the player’s side as well. Maybe he wants to see how much action he gets at the NHL-level in 2015-16, before committing himself further.

Certainly, that’s how Larsson’s agent, Lars Cederstrom, sees things: “Johan has great potential to grow even more next season, so we believe he will have an even better position for negotiations in a year.”

One last thing that will help the 2012 World J20 Championships gold medal winner is his ability to play at both the center and wing positions. Overall, the signing looks like a smart move by the Sabres organization.

Next: Sabres roster continues to take shape