The Buffalo Sabres held their locker clean out today after another season where they find themselves at the very bottom of the standings. The Sabres will have the best chance at selecting first overall in the upcoming draft, but that didn’t cheer up Ryan O’Reilly, who spoke candidly about how he has struggled with morale this season. O’Reilly is quoted in John Vogl’s piece for the Buffalo News:
We’re stuck in this mindset of just being OK with losing. I feel it, too. I think it’s really crept into myself. Over the course of the year, I’ve lost myself a lot, where it’s just kind of get through, just being OK with just not making a mistake. That’s not winning hockey at all, and it’s crept into all of our games.
It’s disappointing. It’s sad. I feel throughout the year I’ve lost the love of the game multiple times. You need to get back to it because it’s just eating myself up and eats the other guys, too. It’s just eating us up, and it’s tough.
The Sabres have finished out of the playoffs for the last seven seasons, and haven’t had any real postseason success in over a decade. With a rookie coach and GM in Phil Housley and Jason Botterill, things will have to turn around quickly if they want ownership to stick with them long-term. Jack Eichel will begin his $80MM contract extension next season, while O’Reilly still has five years at $7.5MM left on his deal. Those two will have to be the key members of any bounce back, though they’ll certainly need some help along the way.
- The Toronto Maple Leafs will carry $2.55MM in bonuses over to next season according to Chris Johnston of Sportsnet, who notes that they also have close to $21MM coming off the books this summer. Interestingly, that bonus number could still increase by another $2MM should Auston Matthews take home the Conn Smythe trophy. The Maple Leafs will have a reduced amount of cap room because of it, and plenty of decisions to make on unrestricted free agents like James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak and Leo Komarov.
- Calvin de Haan would welcome a return to the New York Islanders according to Andrew Gross of Newsday, but is aware of the lack of defensemen on the free agent market this summer. de Haan’s season ended in December after just 33 games, which clouds his future considerably. At one point (including on our Midseason UFA Power Rankings) he looked like he was set to hit the market as one of the best defensemen available. Now, it’s entirely unclear if he’ll be able to secure a long-term deal at all.