The Buffalo Sabres have a glut of defensemen fighting for just a few spots, but at least one of them won’t be in training camp after all. Sabres GM Jason Botterill announced today that Matt Hunwick is not expected to play this season:
After further medical evaluation this offseason, we unfortunately do not expect that Matt will be physically able to play this upcoming season due to a neck condition.
Hunwick, 34, has one year remaining on his contract and carries a $2.25MM cap hit. He will likely be placed on long-term injured reserve if the team requires some additional cap space. That’s a very real possibility for the Sabres as they currently project just over the cap ceiling, though there are more cuts coming on defense even with Hunwick out of the picture. The team has at least eight other players vying for spots on the NHL blueline including five right-handed options, leading many to believe—especially when combined with Rasmus Ristolainen’s comments earlier this summer—that another trade was coming from Buffalo at some point.
Originally coming to Buffalo in part of the Conor Sheary trade last summer, Hunwick played just 14 games with the club last season and was unlikely to see much action even if healthy this year. Once a reliable option for teams like the Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche, New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs, Hunwick hasn’t been able to stay healthy or effective since signing a three-year $6.75MM contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2017.
While this release doesn’t guarantee that Hunwick’s career is over, it does certainly put his future into question as an NHL player. He will be 35 next summer when he reaches unrestricted free agency and three full years removed from his last season of more than 42 games played.