The Buffalo Sabres announced today that defenseman Jake McCabe will be out five to six weeks with an upper-body injury, basically ending his season early. With the Sabres slipping out of the playoff race entirely, there won’t be enough time left for McCabe to return this year.
Unless the Sabres go on an incredible run or McCabe returns much more quickly than expected, it means he will finish with just 55 games played this season. That’s just two more than last year when he finished with 53, making it a disappointing run for a player who is supposed to be a key member of the Sabres defense. The 25-year old was selected 44th overall in 2012 and quickly made his way through the Sabres system, but still hasn’t been able to establish himself as a real presence on the blue line. Averaging just under 19 minutes a game this season he recorded 14 points, and now finds himself in an interesting situation as the offseason nears.
McCabe is scheduled to become a restricted free agent this summer and has arbitration rights, meaning the Sabres will need to make a decision on whether or not they want to extend a qualifying offer. The team already has seven defensemen penciled into the NHL roster for next year with only Rasmus Dahlin among them with a two-way contract, and have other names like Lawrence Pilut waiting for an opportunity. McCabe is worth a contract of some sort obviously, but it’s not clear if his long-term future is in Buffalo. A one-year contract would keep him under team control as a restricted free agent again in 2020.