The Buffalo Sabres were just starting to get some momentum, but the end of the season might be difficult. The team announced today that Linus Ullmark suffered a lower-body injury on Tuesday that will keep him out “week-to-week.” Interim head coach Don Granato knows what that means, noting to reporters that the Sabres “don’t have many weeks left so that one’s a little touchy.”
Ullmark, 27, has played extremely well for the Sabres this season when healthy; the problem is he hasn’t been healthy very often. The pending free agent goaltender has played just 20 games despite being the team’s starter, but has an impressive .917 save percentage in those appearances. Even his record at 9-6-3 is a bit jaw-dropping, given the team’s overall total sits at 11-25-7.
Those are all things that Ullmark and his representatives can bring up in their ongoing negotiations if they wish. The Sabres kept the goaltender through the trade deadline in the hopes that a contract extension could be worked out at some point after Ullmark accepted a one-year, $2.6MM deal last offseason. That deal came together with the pressure of an arbitration hearing scheduled for the following day.
There is a lot of hope in Buffalo that Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen is the goaltender of the future and can become an elite starter in the NHL, but he certainly hasn’t looked ready this season. The 22-year-old may get a chance to show what he can do in the NHL as soon as this weekend thanks to Ullmark’s injury, but in 13 appearances for the Rochester Americans, he has just an .888 save percentage. No one is writing the big Finn off, but to think he’s ready to take over the net entirely next season may be a bit premature. Extending Ullmark at least on a short-term deal could give the team some stability–at least if he can stay healthy.