Linus Ullmark has an arbitration hearing scheduled for Friday and the figures have been submitted from both sides. Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reports that Ullmark has filed for $2.65MM while the Buffalo Sabres only submitted an $800K salary. That’s quite the gap, though it is important to remember that the two sides can still negotiate a new contract up until the hearing (and for a short period afterwards). Unlike other sports, arbitration also does not pick one filing or the other but will determine some sort of middle ground for Ullmark’s next deal.
The 26-year old goaltender was given a chance to establish himself as the top option last season, but still wasn’t able to really take advantage of the opportunity. In 37 games for the Sabres he recorded just a .905 save percentage and 15-14-5 record. A huge part of that is the way the team played down the stretch, losing their early season momentum completely and falling further and further into the familiar territory near the bottom of the Atlantic Division standings. But there were too many nights that Ullmark just wasn’t the kind of difference-making goaltender that he has projected as for the last several years.
Originally selected by the Sabres in the sixth round of the 2012 draft, the 6’4″ Ullmark made a name for himself in Sweden before coming over to North America. In his first professional season on this side of the ocean he ended up having to play in 20 games for the Sabres when they dealt with injury. In those games he showed incredible promise, posting a .913 save percentage. He wouldn’t get that kind of NHL opportunity again until last season.
He will almost certainly not receive anything above $2MM on the arbitration decision, but even a $1.5MM salary would complicate things for the Sabres. The team has two other arbitration hearings on the books for Jake McCabe and Remi Elie but already project to have just $3.1MM in cap space. While there is room to be made in training camp by waiving some of the players who won’t play big roles in the NHL, the Sabres will be spending up to the cap this season and so far have nothing to show for it. After committing $80MM to Jack Eichel in 2017 and $72MM to Jeff Skinner just last month, the team absolutely must start competing for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Ullmark could be a huge key to that if he’s given the chance to become the starter, something that Carter Hutton will certainly have something to say about.