The future of Sabres goalie prospect Erik Portillo has been in question going back to before the season. He’s in his fourth year since being drafted, allowing him to become eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer if he so desires even though he’ll have another season of eligibility at Michigan. Will he sign with Buffalo or not? Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek suggests in the latest 32 Thoughts podcast (audio link) that the latter is the likely answer and that it doesn’t sound like he’ll sign with the Sabres and will instead test the open market.
The 22-year-old was a third-round pick by Buffalo back in 2019 (67th overall) and he has outperformed his draft stock since then with an impressive post-draft season with Dubuque of the USHL and now three years with the Wolverines where he has a 2.26 GAA, a .922 SV%, and three shutouts in 66 games over that stretch. At 6’6, he has the size that many teams covet in their goaltenders as well.
It won’t be a case of Buffalo not wanting to sign Portillo but rather him looking for another situation. The Sabres do have a promising young netminder in Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen while Devon Levi is a year younger than Portillo and is having another strong season at Northeastern. With those two youngsters in the mix, Portillo likely feels that he can find a more desirable situation elsewhere that could give him a cleaner path to try to make the NHL.
To that end, Marek speculates that it’s possible that Portillo could become a trade chip for the Sabres leading into the trade deadline. If another team was able to work out an agreement for Portillo to join them, that would allow Buffalo to at least recoup an asset for someone they’re likely going to lose for nothing in the summer. With several teams not exactly having a lot of prospect upside between the pipes in their pipeline, there should be a few suitors if and when the Sabres decide to put Portillo on the block in the coming weeks if they haven’t already done so.