After signing a one-year extension, Linus Ullmark will need to show that he can be the No. 1 goalie the Buffalo Sabres have been missing.
There is no position more crucial to an NHL team’s success than goaltending and for the Buffalo Sabres, their hopes rest on what they get out of Linus Ullmark this season.
Now that he has got a new deal for this season and avoided a potentially troublesome arbitration hearing, it is up to Ullmark to finally prove he not only deserves the payday he was seeking. That will come with being a more consistent option from start to finish.
"“It’s always a time to prove myself,” Ullmark told Mike Harrington of The Buffalo News. “It doesn’t matter if I’m on a one-(year), two, three or long-time deal. It doesn’t take away the things that I need to do every day to prove myself as being a starting goaltender in this league.”"
Ever since the Sabres traded Ryan Miller, the team has been unable to find that stable presence in between the pipes. They have seen Ullmark put up seasons with a save percentage of .913 and .915 but it hasn’t led to much considering he’s never played more than 40 games and has a 41-41-10 record in 97 career games.
They brought in Carter Hutton to be that split option with Ullmark but it’s clear that the 34-year-old is not capable of shouldering a heavy workload. Before joining the Sabres, he had a .931 save percentage and 2.09 GAA in 32 games with the St. Louis Blues but was pushed into a starting gig making 48 starts and didn’t even come close to posting average goaltending numbers.
It’s clear that any success of failure the Sabres have in the 2020-21 season will come from the play of Ullmark and if he doesn’t get the job done, you can expect the team to cut bait. The goaltending position has been a tricky one for teams to figure out and that’s certainly been true for Buffalo.
The front office could have cut bait with Ullmark and went with one of the various options available in free agency or trade. Instead, they are betting on him to finally seize the opportunity because this is a team that is no longer content with being good for stretches.
Do you think Ullmark can thrive as the starter next season? What are your expectations for him? Let us know in the comments below.