Sabres Reportedly Re-Sign Hinostroza, Subban Ahead of Free Agency
The Sabres reportedly re-signed two of their own - Vinnie Hinostroza and Malcolm Subban - ahead of the NHL free agency period which opens at noon eastern tomorrow. These two moves seemingly set the table for the Sabres to have a relatively quiet free agency day tomorrow as the Sabres are quickly running out of roster spots to improve the 24th place squad from last year.
Hinostroza received a sizable $700,000 raise from the $1m deal he signed with the Sabres last offseason. The Chicago native had 13 goals and 12 assists in 65 games for the Blue and Gold last year under Head Coach Don Granato.
The speedy 28-year-old is the kind of quality depth player that the Sabres could have desperately used once-upon-a-time when they were playing Sam Reinhart with Benoit Pouliot and Seth Griffith while trying to find any kind of answer in the bottom-six. Kevyn Adams and Co. seemingly must have liked what the winger brought to the team while playing with Dylan Cozens. Hinostroza is a guy who brings tenacity, energy, speed and some decent skill to the bottom-six, while also providing some offense, and he also has the ability to slot into the top-six due to injury without looking totally ridiculous.
It's a fine deal.
It would have been a nicer deal if the Sabres had opened up a roster spot for him by buying out the last year of Anders Bjork’s contract in order to properly slot Hinostroza as the 13th forward on the 23-man roster while leaving room for a meaningful addition to the middle-six of the team (Andrew Copp, anyone?). Re-signing Hinostroza strongly indicates that the Sabres are largely done at forward for next year, with the depth chart looking something like this:
Jeff Skinner – Tage Thompson – Alex Tuch
Peyton Krebs – Dylan Cozens – Victor Olofsson
JJ Peterka/Hinostroza – Casey Mittelstadt – Jack Quinn
Rasmus Asplund/Hinostroza - Zemgus Girgensons – Kyle Okposo
It’s tough to predict at this point whether Peterka and Quinn will be able to win a camp battle and force their way onto the roster over the likes of Hinostroza and Bjork, and if Peterka can’t win a job outright, it makes little sense to make the young German winger an extra forward when he can just go back to Rochester. That’s a topic for another day, though. For now, it’s enough to say that the Sabres are likely done adding anyone of merit to the top-12 of their forward ranks, although that certainly remains to be seen. Sometimes the Sabres surprise us with an acquisition no one saw coming.
Meanwhile, the Sabres plugged a hole in their organizational goaltender depth chart by bringing back Malcolm Subban, according to Matthew Fairburn of The Athletic.
Subban, 28, came to the Sabres mid-season from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for future considerations. He then posted a sub-mediocre .871 save percentage and 4.85 goals-against-average in parts of four games before sustaining a season-ending upper body injury. It’s probably fair to say that his tenure as Sabres anthem singer went better than his brief time between the pipes last year.
Supposedly this new contract is a two-way deal, meaning Subban could play for the Rochester Americans at a lower salary than his NHL salary should he clear waivers. That is if the Sabres intend to send him to Rochester. The goaltending market is freezing rapidly with Cam Talbot heading to the Ottawa Senators and Matt Murray on his way to Toronto. The two remaining big free agent goalies in Darcy Kuemper and Jack Campbell are expected to head to Washington and Edmonton respectively, meaning the Sabres will be scraping the bottom of the barrel for a goalie to play with Craig Anderson.
The Sabres still have some tier-three free agent goalie options to choose from in the form of Jaroslav Halak, Thomas Greiss, Charlie Lindgren and Eric Comrie should they elect to add another goalie at the NHL-level rather than merely re-signing Dustin Tokarski to split time in Rochester with either Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen or Malcolm Subban. There also remains the possibility that the Sabres opt to let Subban and UPL battle it out in camp and see who wins the job along 41-year-old Anderson. That seems like utter insanity considering Anderson’s age, UPL’s injury history, and Subban’s lackluster career numbers, but it’s a possibility nonetheless, and one that becomes increasingly likely as goalie names continue to tumble off the board.
We’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see who the Sabres add to be the fourth organizational option and that decision will likely show whether UPL is being penciled in to start with Anderson, or whether the young goalie will have some real competition. Back to Malcolm, though. The major side effect of the Subban signing is the possibility of Malcolm’s brother PK joining the Sabres as well. The elder Subban is still under contract with the New Jersey Devils until tomorrow at 11:59, at which point he will be free to test free agency and receive offers from the other 31 NHL teams.
PK would help the Sabres sell some tickets and hit the salary cap floor, even if he isn’t the same player he was once upon a time with the Canadiens. He still has some juice though, and it would make sense for the Sabres to throw a short-term, high average-annual-value contract to PK in order to shore up the right side of their defense group while remaining cap compliant.
The team still has a bit of work to hit the cap floor and someone has to make that money. It’s clear that the Sabres are uninterested in signing anyone to a deal longer than three years, so perhaps Subban makes the most sense on a three-year deal.