10:35am: Don’t count Larsson out of the Sabres plans just yet, as his agent Craig Oster confirmed to Lancy Lysowski of The Buffalo News there is no truth to the report out of Sweden. Larsson still needs a contract to continue with Buffalo, but Oster told Joe Yerdon of The Athletic that his client is “looking forward to continuing his NHL career next season.”
9:45am: It might be the end of the NHL road for Buffalo Sabres forward Johan Larsson, as according to Magnus Wahlman of Radiosporten in Sweden the 26-year old is heading back to Brynas for next season. Larsson played for Brynas before making the jump to North America in 2012, and is scheduled to be a restricted free agent this summer.
Even if Larsson didn’t return to the SHL, there is a chance that the Sabres would decide not to qualify him anyway. The defensive center posted just 14 points in 73 games this season and has 79 in his entire 331-game NHL career. With a 2018-19 cap hit of $1.475MM and arbitration rights this offseason, the Sabres could decide to move on and open up some more minutes for their young forward group.
In that way, his return to Sweden could be the best decision for both sides. Larsson never has been able to produce much offense at the NHL level, but previously dominated at the SHL and AHL levels. Selected in the second round nine years ago by the Minnesota Wild, he was part of the return for Jason Pominville in 2013. A key piece, he had scored 37 points in 62 games as a rookie for the Houston Aeros and made his NHL debut at the age of 20.
The Sabres aren’t exactly in a cap crunch, but freeing up another ~$2MM could have an impact this summer for the team. They are still trying to re-sign top goal scorer Jeff Skinner, and should have enough room to get involved in some of the bigger free agents if they so choose.