The Buffalo Sabres, fresh off signing Rasmus Dahlin to an eight-year extension, are preparing their opening night lineup to start the season later this week. Based on what Lance Lysowski of The Buffalo News is reporting, it appears the Sabres plan to start the season with three goaltenders on their NHL roster. At least for the time being.
The Sabres reportedly don’t feel confident that Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen is ready to take over the backup role full-time. This means that the club is likely to keep veteran Eric Comrie on their NHL roster as insurance just in case they need to give starter Devon Levi some nights off and Luukkonen isn’t up to the task.
Levi is expected to start the bulk of the games in October for the Sabres, and while carrying three goalies will limit the Sabres flexibility should they need to call up forwards and defenseman, the team feels that Comrie offers them more consistency at this point than Luukkonen does, but lacks the upside that Luukkonen offers the team long term.
It’s a delicate predicament for Buffalo as they are hoping to take a big step this season and reach the playoffs for the first time since 2011. The Sabres want to win now, and Comrie offers them a better shot at that, but Luukkonen has played just one less pro game than the 28-year-old Comrie, and at 24 years of age Luukkonen hasn’t come close to reaching the potential that made him a second-round pick in 2017. Statistically, both men have very similar NHL numbers as they both sport a career .897 save percentage and a goals-against average above 3.30.
The three-goalie solution can’t be the Sabres long-term solution as eventually they will have to add a forward or defenseman and will need to move a goalie off the NHL roster to do so. How they solve that problem will be interesting to see as they could find a trade partner or subject a goalie to waivers and demote them to the AHL. This would create another logjam as the Sabres currently employ Dustin Tokarski and Devin Cooley on two-way contracts for the Rochester Americans.