The Buffalo Sabres have avoided arbitration with one of their veteran forwards, inking Zemgus Girgensons to a one-year contract worth $1.6MM. Despite being only 25 Girgensons will become an unrestricted free agent next summer thanks to his six years of NHL experience already. $1.6MM was the qualifying offer that Buffalo issued him recently, the same salary he has earned the last two seasons.
Girgensons is one of the longest-tenured Sabre at this point, a regular in the lineup since 2013 when he was just a young forward one year removed from playing in the USHL. He scored eight goals and 22 points that season as a rookie, but more importantly proved that he could hang in the big leagues and contribute defensively. In fact, he recorded the highest plus/minus of any regular that season and caused some big expectations. After all, he was a 14th-overall pick.
Unfortunately, the offense has never materialized for Girgensons and he has even been moved out of the center position in recent seasons. In 72 games last year he recorded just five goals and 18 points, leading to some question over whether the Sabres would even qualify him. Obviously the team is fine with bringing him back for another season, but given that he hasn’t cracked the 20-point threshold in four seasons you can bet he won’t be asked to be an impact player for them next season. He does however provide a physical presence in the bottom-six and is still a key penalty killer for the team.
The Sabres still haven’t made many real changes to the roster for this season, only bringing in Jimmy Vesey as a new option at forward. Though the re-signing of Jeff Skinner and a full season from Brandon Montour should help, it’s surprising to see a team be so relatively quiet after going 33-39-10 last season. After Girgensons, they now have five restricted free agents left to sign in Johan Larsson, Evan Rodrigues, Linus Ullmark, Remi Elie and Jake McCabe.