2 moves Sabres must make in 2024 NHL offseason

The Buffalo Sabres had high expectations heading into the 2023-24 NHL season. Buffalo missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs by just one point in 2023. They had a wealth of promising talent on their roster who figured to take a step forward this season. And their goalie of the future, Devon Levi, would play his first full season in the league.

However, things did not turn out that way. The Sabres finished the season with 84 points, seven fewer than they had last season. Those seven points also just so happen to be the gap between them and the Washington Capitals, who earned the second wild card in the East. It was a painful season for Buffalo and its fans.

Now, the Sabres have decided to turn to the old to usher in the new. Veteran head coach Lindy Ruff has returned to the bench in Buffalo for the 2024-25 season. He will be tasked with guiding this team toward the Stanley Cup Playoffs moving forward. With that in mind, here are two moves the Sabres can make in NHL Free Agency to bolster their chances next season.

Sabres should add veteran goaltender

Florida Panthers center Eetu Luostarinen (27) controls the puck against Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (1) during the third period at Amerant Bank Arena. Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Last summer, general manager Keyvn Adams made a big bet. He believed the young goaltending duo of Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and Devon Levi could lead the Sabres in 2023-24. As a result, he did not add a veteran goalie with starting experience. It’s certainly commendable that Adams placed his trust in his players. But in the end, the bet did not pay off.

Levi entered the season as the starting goalie. But he quickly lost the job to Luukkonen, who played 54 games this year. To be fair, Luukkonen did play well to end the season. He finished with a .910 save percentage for the Sabres. But the 25-year-old Finnish goalkeeper still had some ups and downs during the year.

If the Sabres want to run it back with this tandem, they should add a player the kids can lean on. And thankfully, Buffalo has some intriguing options to choose from. Both Laurent Brossoit and Anthony Stolarz are hitting NHL Free Agency this summer. The two UFA puck-stoppers could provide quality insurance to the Sabres in 2024-25. If Buffalo wants to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a veteran goalie should be on the summer shopping list.

Buffalo wants to be harder to play against

One aspect of Buffalo’s game that also should be addressed is their lack of physicality. The Sabres actually attempted to address the matter last summer. They traded for Jordan Greenway at the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline. And in NHL Free Agency, they signed defenseman Connor Clifton. Despite these moves, they still lacked an edge on the ice.

This summer, the Sabres have a chance to remake the bottom of their lineup. Four of their forwards are hitting the open market. This gives Buffalo room to shuffle the deck a bit this summer. It’s a chance the franchise should absolutely pounce on given the options available.

If they want a bit of offense, they can look at Vegas Golden Knights winger Anthony Mantha. Mantha had a resurgent 2023-24 season after struggling with the Washington Capitals. He is a fine defensive player and uses his six-foot-five frame to become a nuisance in front of opposing goalies. He’d certainly be a fine fit, though he may be a bit expensive.

Another option in NHL Free Agency is Vancouver Canucks winger Dakota Joshua. Joshua had an excellent showing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with the Canucks. He has an offensive flair to him and has thrown more than 200 hits in each of the last two seasons. He is just 27 years old and can play center if the Sabres need him to.

The Sabres have to become harder to play against. Especially when sharing a division with the Boston Bruins and Florida Panthers. If they can do that, it opens up the ice for their star players. And that can only bring better results to the Sabres in 2024-25.

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