The Sabres had added some depth down the middle as Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports (Twitter link) that they’ve signed Cody Eakin to a two-year contract. The deal carries a $2.25MM AAV. TSN’s Darren Dreger adds (via Twitter) that Eakin will receive $2MM next season and $2.5MM in 2021-22.
After sending Marcus Johansson to the Minnesota Wild and letting Johan Larsson leave in free agency—Larsson signed a two-year, $2.8MM contract in Arizona earlier today—the Sabres will have quite a different looking group down the middle next season. Jack Eichel will obviously be the team’s first-line option, but Eric Staal and Eakin will now figure into the middle-six. Where that leaves Casey Mittelstadt isn’t clear and likely confirms what many expected, that Dylan Cozens will start his pro career on the wing (provided he cracks the Sabres roster out of camp).
Eakin is an interesting addition for the Sabres, but not one that comes with any sort of production guarantee. The 29-year-old center has experienced both excellent and terrible seasons over the last few years, alternating drastically between scoring levels. For three seasons with the Dallas Stars starting in 2013-14 he looked like a perfect secondary scoring option, registering close to 20 goals and 40 points each year. But then he fell off a cliff and scored just three goals and 12 points in 60 games during the 2016-17 season.
After a bounce-back in Vegas, many likely considered that 2016-17 season an outlier and his true potential had returned as a middle-six option. Unfortunately, Eakin’s play fell off a cliff again in 2019-20 when he scored just four goals and ten points in 41 games and was traded to the Winnipeg Jets midseason. With Eakin not re-signing with Winnipeg, Sportsnet’s Ken Wiebe notes (Twitter link) that Vegas will receive a 2021 fourth-round pick from the Jets; had he re-signed, the pick would have upgraded to a third-round selection.
Frankly, it’s not clear what the Sabres are really getting in this deal. Though Eakin has shown an ability to contribute on offense and defense, his results at both ends of the rink have been inconsistent at best. Believing he will be a substantial upgrade over Larsson, who signed for less money, could be a mistake.