The Buffalo Sabres have brought a defenseman down from Toronto, signing free agent Ilya Lyubushkin to a two-year deal according to Bob McKenzie of TSN. The deal will carry an average annual value of $2.75MM.
The first signing, Lyubushkin, is relatively straightforward. The Sabres had an extremely encouraging finish to their 2021-22 season, and the team is in a more positive place than it has been in years. GM Kevyn Adams and coach Don Granato have done a brilliant job so far in turning the downtrodden Sabres around, and they look towards next season with the hope of at least being in the conversation for a playoff spot next spring.
Lyubushkin will help them get there, as he’s the sort of proven, NHL-caliber defenseman that any team could see themselves adding. Lyubushkin, who was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs last season, is a big, physical, crease-clearing defenseman. He featured sporadically on the Maple Leafs’ penalty kill, averaging 55 seconds per game there, and should see time on the Sabres’ penalty kill next season. This deal will take Lyubushkin until he’s thirty, meaning there’s no significant regression risk, and the cap hit, while a bit pricey at $2.75MM, isn’t really an issue given the wealth of cap space the Sabres have had.
While some might not like the cost, this is a sensible, entirely reasonable addition for the Sabres to make as they attempt to end the NHL’s longest playoff drought.
In Comrie, the Sabres add a 27-year-old goalie who had an extremely successful limited run of NHL action last year. In 19 games Comrie posted a .920 save percentage, going 10-5-1 on a largely dysfunctional Sabres team. Prior to this year, Comrie had proven himself as a capable AHL starter, and should now see the first regular NHL gig in his career.
The Sabres have an uncertain future in the net, with 41-year-old Craig Anderson currently slated to be their starter. With Comrie in the mix, the Sabres have added a goalie who has a shot to make their $1.8MM per year investment look really, really good.