Another player has received an arbitration award, as Evan Rodrigues signs a one-year, $2MM contract with the Buffalo Sabres. Rodrigues had filed for a $2.65MM salary while the Sabres filed for just $1.5MM. The Sabres still have hearings scheduled with Remi Elie and Linus Ullmark for early next month.
Rodrigues, 25, is coming off his first full season in the NHL and recorded 29 points last season in 74 games. A former teammate of Jack Eichel at Boston University, Rodrigues was an undrafted free agent when he decided to sign with the Sabres in 2015. After showing he could hang at the NHL level in the 2017-18 season, he has now established himself as a full-time roster option for them moving forward.
No, the 5’10” center is not going to be mistaken for a star offensive player anytime soon, but giving the Sabres strong minutes down the middle is still valuable. Rodrigues has been moved around the lineup through his young career and also contributed last season on the powerplay and penalty kill, giving him a huge amount of versatility as they try to build the roster up. With new additions like Marcus Johansson and Jimmy Vesey figuring into the top-six it’s unlikely that Rodrigues will find a ton of minutes in that group, but he may have the most upside in that next group including players like Johan Larsson and Zemgus Girgensons.
The real test for Buffalo this season will be trying to get enough production out of that bottom-six to really compete, something that is far from decided at this point. The team obviously has some elite talent at the top of the lineup with Eichel, Sam Reinhart and Jeff Skinner, but will need more competitiveness on a nightly basis from the rest. New head coach Ralph Krueger is certainly known for his ability to motivate players, something that the Sabres will hopefully experience this year as they try to compete for a playoff spot in the difficult Atlantic Division.