Buffalo Sabres: 5 Free Agents Likely to Be Re-Signed

Matt CloudenCorrespondent IMay 29, 2014

Buffalo Sabres: 5 Free Agents Likely to Be Re-Signed

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    The Buffalo Sabres have some decisions to make in the coming months about whom they would like to bring back from the franchise's worst team in its history. 

    General manager Tim Murray has 11 restricted free agents and seven unrestricted free agents to make decisions on in the next few weeks before free agency opens in the beginning of July. 

    Who will stay and who will go?

1. Tyler Ennis (RFA)

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    Tyler Ennis was one of the few brightish spots on the Sabres last season, leading the team with 21 goals in 80 contests. 

    Ennis will be about to sign his third contract, with his second acting as a bridge between his entry-level deal and this offseason. His bridge deal was a two-year, $5.625 million deal, so one would expect Ennis to ask for a bump over $3 million per year in this deal.

    Ennis has game-changing potential but is best utilized as a second-liner. Expect Tim Murray to build around Ennis moving forward, as he has the ability to put up a lot of points with talented linemates. 

    Essentially, retaining Ennis' services is a no-brainer. 

     

2. Marcus Foligno (RFA)

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    Paul Vernon/Associated Press

    Marcus Foligno found himself a mobile asset last year, playing everywhere from the first to the fourth line at times.

    While both the moving up and down were due to more than just his level of play, Foligno's year can best be described as disappointing. He disappeared during stretches, which is something a player of Foligno's mold simply cannot do if he wants to maintain a roster spot. 

    Foligno has the ability to be a good third-liner in the league, but seven goals is certainly not going to cut it—especially with Murray stocking the prospect cupboards with big, talented wingers. 

    Foligno is coming off of his entry-level deal, so he will likely get a modest raise with a relatively short term to prove he can be the physical presence in both zones the Sabres want him to be. 

3. Chad Ruhwedel (RFA)

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Chad Ruhwedel showed down the stretch why the Sabres were so interested in him as a free agent coming out of the University of Massachusetts-Lowell last season. 

    In his 21 games, Ruhwedel only managed an assist, but that does not come close to telling the story of his season, as he looked much more comfortable with the speed of the NHL game than he did in his short stint at the end of the 2012-13 season.

    For the advanced-stats crowd, Ruhwedel posted a plus-4.8 percent FF% rel, per ExtraSkater.com, or, in English, the Sabres had 4.8 percent more shots toward the opposing net than toward their own net while he was on the ice. This success translated into almost four minutes more on the ice per game than the 2012-13 season for Ruhwedel. 

    While he may never be the flashiest player on the team, Ruhwedel earned another contract in a Sabres sweater without question and can join a very talented young defensive group. 

4. Matt Hackett (RFA)

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    Matt Hackett was one of the seemingly endless number of netminders the Sabres dressed this season, but he played well in his time in the crease. 

    Despite a rocky start in Rochester, Hackett made the most of his chance with the Sabres, posting a respectable .908 goals-against average in eight appearances. If you took away his only poor showing, when he allowed four goals on 15 shots against Nashville on March 27, his GAA jumps to an excellent .919. 

    The biggest question about Hackett moving forward, however, will be the leg injury he sustained against the Boston Bruins on the last game of the season. In what can only be described as a nasty injury, Hackett had surgery Tuesday on the knee that was badly injured in a goal mouth collision. 

    Despite the injury, it seems likely with the Sabres' goalie situation very much up in the air that he will return to the fold next year. 

5. Cory Conacher (RFA)

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    Cory Conacher had quite the roller-coaster season, and his play on the ice reflected that, but it seems likely the Canisius College alum will get another shot for the Sabres next season. 

    Conacher only scored three goals and six points in his 19 games but spent a good deal of time on the fourth line. His size does not lend well to the nasty areas of the ice, but he holds his own and could be a great third-line option for the Sabres next year. The late-season waiver wire pickup also contributed 20 points in 60 games for the Ottawa Senators before joining the Sabres. 

    Simply, with the lack of forward talent the Sabres roster currently holds, it's hard not to make a case for Conacher to return for one more year despite his struggles finding the back of the net. 

     

Other Potential Re-Signings

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    Gary Wiepert/Associated Press

    While those five are the most likely, there are a few others who could be back for the Sabres. 

    Matt D'Agostini is a bottom-three player who could be called upon to provide some depth for the young Sabres roster. He will be an unrestricted free agent. 

    Both John Scott and Zenon Konopka are question marks, but to bring one back would not be much of a surprise. Scott has the inside edge thanks to a 20-game ban for Konopka for violating the NHL's drug policy. Both are also UFAs.

    Luke Adam and Jamie McBain lead the list of remaining RFAs who could re-sign. Adam is coming off a strong rebound in Rochester this year where he led the Amerks with 29 goals in 59 games. 

    McBain is a much bigger question mark as his struggles last season may have lost him his roster spot to one of the younger prospects in the system. He could be brought back as a seventh defenseman or as a veteran presence in Rochester. 

    One note on recent signings: Nicolas Deslauriers, acquired in the trade with the Los Angeles Kings at the trade deadline, signed a two-year, $1.275 million deal to stay with the Sabres. He was due to be an RFA. 

     

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