Buffalo Sabres: Determining which UFAs will return next season

KeyBank Center Buffalo Sabres (Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images)
KeyBank Center Buffalo Sabres (Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images) /
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Buffalo Sabres
Wayne Simmonds of the Buffalo Sabres (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

Even as the fate of the 2019-20 campaign remains uncertain, the Buffalo Sabres are already considering which of their Unrestricted Free Agents they will want to bring back next season.

Whatever the outcome of the 2019-20 campaign, it’s clear the Buffalo Sabres still have a lot of work to do. Only a miracle such as the NHL announcing a tournament which allows more teams to compete for the Stanley Cup, will stop the Blades making it nine consecutive seasons without playoff hockey.

The Sabres will have a lot of decisions to make, including what to do with their pending unrestricted free agents on the current roster and long-term injured reserve list. We take a look at the seven players in question, and determine how likely each one is to receive a new offer and return to Buffalo next season:

Wayne Simmonds

There were a number of people who questioned the Sabres’ decision to trade for Wayne Simmonds towards the end of February. From our perspective however, we understood the move as an attempt to boost their playoff challenge; what did they have to lose, only having to give up a conditional 2021 fifth round draft pick in return?

The Sabres were on a run of five wins in their previous six games. Simmonds would — theoretically at least — come in and help with his high-energy, physical play at both ends of the ice.

Unfortunately for both the team and player, things did not go as planned. The addition of the 2017 All-Star Game MVP coincided with the Sabres losing six of the seven games he played in prior to the season being suspended.

While it would be unfair to put all the blame on Simmonds, he only had one assist in those seven games as he failed to have the anticipated impact. (He had five points — three goals and two assists — in his last eight appearances for the New Jersey Devils.) Pending the outcome of the remainder of the 2019-20 campaign — if and whenever this happens — how much of an appetite do the Sabres have to bring him back next season?

As per the aforementioned reference to the winger’s energy, there was some concern about a lack of staying power during his shifts on the ice. While it will be perceived as stating the obvious, it’s still worth noting he just isn’t the same player he was three years ago.

The general consensus seems to be that the Sabres should move on from Simmonds. However, we would consider an exception, assuming he is prepared to re-sign for a cap friendly number.

The 31-year-old’s cap hit for the 2019-20 campaign is $2.5 million, but if he decided to accept a deal somewhere between $1 million and $1.3 million for one season, then he might be worth bringing back. Understandably though, you also have to factor in his desire to return to Buffalo, combined with what other teams will potentially offer.

Chance of returning next season: 30 percent