The Buffalo Sabres have reached an agreement with another one of their restricted free agents, signing Johan Larsson to a one-year, $1.55MM contract. Larsson was eligible for arbitration this year but decided not to file, instead accepting his qualifying offer. He will be an unrestricted free agent next summer
Larsson, 26, has been a full-time player in the Sabres lineup for the last several seasons, but never did become anything more than a defensive center for the club. Originally selected 56th overall in 2010 by the Minnesota Wild, he was a big part of the original Jason Pominville deal back in 2013. Even though he has put up solid point totals at the minor league level, that offense never materialized in the NHL and Larsson has posted just 79 points in 330 games with the Sabres. He reached a career-high 10 goals in 2015-16 but hasn’t been able to crack six in a single year since.
Still, there is value in his game at the bottom of the Sabres lineup as a penalty killing and matchup option. He averaged more short-handed ice time than any Buffalo forward not named Zemgus Girgensons, and was almost exclusively used for faceoffs in the defensive zone. Even as the Sabres try to add some more punch up front with players like Marcus Johansson and Jimmy Vesey, Larsson’s role in the bottom-six is likely relatively safe.
The question will be whether or not the team wants to keep him around past this season. The Sabres currently project to have six different forwards reach unrestricted free agency next summer, and none of them are so key to the operation that an extension is crucial. Instead the team could look very different in 2020-21, with some young players or more trades taking the place of these veteran depth options.