The Sabers must determine Kyle Okposo’s future with the team

The Buffalo Sabers will soon have to make a decision about their captain’s future. Kyle Okposo He is in the final season of his seven-year, $42 million contract before becoming an unrestricted free agent (UFA) this summer.

Although he is a firmly established member of the Sabres, it is not certain that management will bring him back next season and beyond. They have options, but what will they decide?

The Sabers can save cap space

Let’s play devil’s advocate for a moment and think about what it would mean for the Sabers if Okposo doesn’t return. even later Long term contract was given Taz Thompson And Mattias Samuelsson before this season, management still has more than $18 million in salary cap space (, and that number will increase when Okposo’s $6 million per season comes off the books.

Kyle Okposo Buffalo Sabres
The Sabers will have surplus cap space after Okposo’s contract expires (Amy Irvine / hockey writer).

This is a very convenient time for his contract to expire, as many of the team’s young players are nearing the end of their contracts. Dylan Cozens A restricted free agent (RFA) after this season, while Rasmus Dahlin, Wayne Powers, Peyton Krebs, and Henry Jokiharju (among others) will be RFAs after the 2023–24 campaign.

Assuming they get most of these players back, it would be in the organization’s best interest to retain as much cap space as possible, though Okposo won’t command anything close to his current salary on his next contract.

Trade Okposo?

Although the Sabers are in the playoff hunt this season, they could still move a few pieces if they fall out of contention at the deadline. As a pending UFA, Okposo would be the obvious choice to sell by March 3, as he would be welcome to any team looking to stock up for a long postseason run.

A potential buyer might not want to take on a rental player with such a large salary, and the Sabers would have to hold onto some of the pieces to finalize a deal, which shouldn’t be a problem. The only real obstacle is that the 34-year-old’s trade value isn’t high right now.

Related: The Sabers will need to shuffle the lines to rekindle their fire

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Okposo is experienced A revival of last season, With 21 goals and 45 points, his highest totals in five years. Fans noticed and hoped that the old player was back. However, he could not do so Follow it With seven goals and 17 points so far this season.

Still, he’s the kind of battle-tested veteran that teams want to look to during the spring. The Minnesota Wild, for example, are a young team in the middle of an air-tight race in the Western Conference that could be Looking to upgrade In the deadline and will benefit from his addition.

Okposo proved worthy of buffalo

While Okposo seems like a prime trade candidate, the Sabers likely won’t want to move him because of what he means to the team.

When he signed his massive contract in July 2016, management believed they were adding a top-tier talent who would be a leader on and off the ice. It just didn’t happen. Although his first two seasons in Buffalo were strong, numerous injuries His play and output declined significantly in each of the next three seasons before returning to form last season.

But while he failed to live up to the hype on the scoresheet, the winger showed his worth in other ways. After numerous failed attempts at rebuilding over the past few years, the Sabers finally got it right. They have fielded a strong roster of young talent with Okposo emerging as the leader; The impact he has had on his teammates is remarkable (“Sabres praise Kyle Okposo’s resurgence, leadership due to Buffalo’s captaincy decision” athletic6/22/22).

The breakout performances of Thompson and Dahlin point directly to Okposo’s wisdom as he has helped create a positive and cohesive locker room culture, something the Sabers have lacked during their recent struggles. As a result, it is unlikely that he will leave the Sabres.

Will Okposo retire as a Sabre?

Okposo is not yet in the twilight of his career, but he may be approaching it. He’ll turn 35 in April and given his well-documented injury history, it’s hard to know how long he’ll want to stick with them, and who can blame him?

Regardless, he’s enjoying his new life in Buffalo and has become an integral part of the team, even if his production has dipped. I think it’s safe to assume that general manager (GM) Kevin Adams will bring his captain back on a short-term deal. It’s hard to predict the length or value of a new contract, but two more seasons would be great for the team.

After everything he’s done since arriving in Western New York, it would be a fitting end to a remarkable career if Okoposo were to retire as a member of the Sabres, but we’ll have to see what management has in mind as the trade deadline nears. .

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