The Buffalo Sabres got their man in free agency. Kyle Okposo, the right winger formerly of the New York Islanders, brings top-six talent and a heavy game to the Sabres, who all of a sudden have a pretty nice forwards corps going.
Okposo inked for seven years and $42 million, or $6 million per season. That's a big price tag, but he's not the type of player that is easy to find. Okposo is a consistent 20-goal scorer and I can only assume he'll get a chance to play with either Jack Eichel or Ryan O'Reilly in Buffalo. Toss in Evander Kane, Sam Reinhart, Tyler Ennis and maybe Jimmy Vesey, and you've got a pretty good top-six that will be
very good in a year or two. And with a blueline that boasts rising star Rasmus Ristolainen and veterans such as Zach Bogosian and the recently acquired Dmitry Kulikov, the Sabres' outlook is getting positive, coming out of a rebuild. But there's more to Okposo's signing than just the benefit of getting the Minnesota native's services. For a franchise that wants to be a contender and has the full support of owner Terry Pegula, this is a signal that Buffalo as a market can attract in-demand free agents and talent. The Sabres
thought they had coach Mike Babcock, after all, and they definitely took a swing at Steven Stamkos, but were rebuffed on both fronts. But Eichel, the phenom and building block, is a nice enticement. Not only that, but the improvements around the city itself are quite alluring now, as many out-of-town media noticed at the draft this summer (those in the know already knew that many NHL folks retire outside the greater Buffalo area). With Milan Lucic signing in Edmonton on the strength of Eichel's fellow 2015 draft star, Connor McDavid, it's clear how important these rebuilds can be, and that GMs need to use those young talents to their advantage. In a chaotic Eastern Conference, Buffalo could certainly make a run at a playoff spot with Okposo in the fold, assuming they get decent goaltending from a healthy Robin Lehner. But the best aspect of this deal is that Okposo will be a contributor for the duration. He's 28 years old now, so seven years takes him out of his prime, but not so far out that he'll be a millstone. Score one for GM Tim Murray and the city of Buffalo.
WHAT ADVANCED STATS SAY: Seven years is a bit much, but this is probably one of the better signings of the day so far. A moderate overpayment on the cap hit, but Okposo was legitimately the next best offensive player after Stamkos. On a line with Jack Eichel or Ryan O’Reilly, Okposo can be lethal as we saw during his time with John Tavares. He could be especially good with Jack Eichel who shoots a lot of pucks and could benefit from Okposo’s playmaking ability which is among the best in the league. Neither are very capable defensively though and that could be an issue. Buffalo is a much better offensive team now though.
By Dominik Luszczyszyn