The Buffalo Sabres have many questions hanging over them, but none more than what they will look like when they take to the ice at the beginning of next season?
Some teams will be entering the 2020-21 NHL season with extremely tight cap situations and the need to move some players to make alterations to their rosters, but this is not the case with the Buffalo Sabres.
At the time of writing, the Sabres have just 10 players on their NHL roster locked up beyond the end of this current season, with five unrestricted free agents (seven if you include players on LTIR) and seven restricted free agents (eight including LTIR).
The Sabres recently named Kevyn Adams as their new general manager, replacing Jason Botterill, and he finds himself with a truly unique situation with the current state of the team’s roster.
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Many general managers inherit teams, and problems, when they are hired and often need to make a number of moves, mostly trades and free-agent signings, to try and manipulate the roster into an image that they like.
For Adams, however, he has so few players locked up for next season that he can truly construct a team he believes can compete for a playoff spot, and actually make the post-season for the first time since 2011.
With so few players currently on the books, the Buffalo Sabres find themselves with $34 million in cap space that they can work with to build effectively a new team, if that is what Adams believes is the best route to take.
Goaltending is an area to address when the off-season gets underway, with questions also to be answered about the corps playing along the blue line.
Rasmus Dahlin and Henri Jokiharju are two promising young players who can be key pieces to build around for many years to come, with decisions to be made on the likes of Rasmus Ristolainen, Colin Miller and Brandon Montour.
The defensive group is largely intact, though may see one or two new faces arrive under the new GM, but the biggest need from the team is a new-look offence.
Jack Eichel leads the way and is one of the best players in the NHL, but his supporting cast has been largely lacklustre ever since he entered the league.
The Sabres only have four forwards under contract for the 2020-21 season, including Eichel, Jeff Skinner, Kyle Okposo and Marcus Johansson.
Victor Olofsson and Sam Reinhart are both RFAs and bound to be locked up long-term, but that still leaves huge holes throughout the Sabres’ forwards corps that can be addressed in free agency or in trades.
Adams can land a top talent in the draft, with the seventh-overall selection, but they are unlikely to be ready to jump up to the NHL level immediately and will require some time to further their development.
There are so many questions over the make-up of the Buffalo Sabres for next season, with so many holes to be filled, something that could be viewed quite positively if it means the team finally attempts to overhaul things.
Some fans might argue that the team they had last season were just one point shy of being in the play-in round, but that is no real argument to keep the majority of the core together when presented with an opportunity to truly build a team in a new image.
The 2020-21 season is a big one for the Buffalo Sabres, as missing the post-season will take their drought up to 10 consecutive years and could see Eichel finally give up hope of the team making progress even with him there.
Plenty of questions remain for this team and it will be interesting to see what moves they make over the next few months, especially with a flat cap over the next two years and so many contracts to be handled.