The Sabres have avoided salary arbitration for the second time today. This time, it’s goaltender Linus Ullmark who has avoided a hearing as the team announced that they’ve signed him to a one-year, $2.6MM contract. The deal comes in just above our $2.55MM projection.
The two sides exchanged figures on Saturday with Buffalo offering $1.8MM and Ullmark requesting $4.1MM. As expected, the contract checks in a bit below the midpoint of $2.95MM.
Ullmark had a decent showing last season, putting up a 2.69 GAA with a .915 SV% in 34 starts, numbers that were a lot better than his showing in 2018-19 and his platoon mate in Carter Hutton. Despite that, however, he was basically in a platoon situation all season long, a situation that could once again present itself in 2020-21.
Most notable about this contract is that it takes the 27-year-old right to unrestricted free agency next offseason. While this has been a tough free agent market for quite a few players, that hasn’t been the case for goaltenders as they went off the board early and often with many of them earning raises. Part of that is due to the expectation of a condensed schedule which necessitated the need for a better backup but as more teams shift towards tandems instead of a better starter with a weaker backup, Ullmark could be well-positioned to get a bigger deal next offseason.
It’s also worth noting that Hutton is an unrestricted free agent in 2021 as well. All of a sudden, GM Kevyn Adams will have an opportunity to significantly change things up at that position a year from now and take a chance at shoring up a position that has been a weak spot for the past several years.
Buffalo’s work this offseason isn’t done just yet, however. Even after getting a deal done with Ullmark and Sam Reinhart earlier today, the Sabres still have one more player eligible for salary arbitration in Victor Olofsson whose hearing is scheduled for November 4th. They have roughly $6MM in space to work with so they’ll have no trouble staying under the salary cap when that deal gets done and there should be enough left to try to add another player on the open market if they so desire. If not, they’ll enter 2020-21 with a fair bit of cap space to work with.