There are five remaining restricted free agents without a contract for the upcoming season, and among them is Buffalo Sabres forward Sam Reinhart. Though there has never seemed to be any animosity between the two sides, training camp and the preseason schedule is now underway without Reinhart officially on the Buffalo roster. That is about to change though, as the Sabres and Reinhart have signed a two-year deal that carries an average annual value of $3.65MM per season. We’ve seen other holdouts end up taking short-term deals over the last few days, with Darnell Nurse and Josh Morrissey both signing two-year contracts to get them back on track for the start of the season.
Reinhart, 22, still hasn’t experienced the breakout many have expected since his dominant junior career but is a very good player for the Sabres whose numbers should improve this season just by virtue of playing with more talented linemates. He did register a career-high in goals and points last season with 25 and 50 respectively, though those numbers are just slightly ahead of his first two years in the league. Now, with new forwards like Jeff Skinner, Casey Mittelstadt, Conor Sheary, Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka and Tage Thompson in the lineup the Sabres should be able to take some pressure off of some of the younger players. Reinhart and Jack Eichel may benefit from this deeper forward group tremendously, and be able to operate away from the very toughest matchups on a nightly basis.
Of course, that’s what both sides are hoping after signing a short-term deal. Reinhart is giving up a chance at a long-term contract in the hopes that he can secure a much more lucrative deal in the future, while the Sabres expect to get some relatively cheap production over the next two seasons while they continue their rebuild. Already a player of Reinhart’s talent is a steal at $3.65MM, and if he can take a step forward this season the second year of his deal could be one of the better bargains in the league. Reinhart will still be a restricted free agent at the end of this deal, but the short term allows both to reevaluate their position in a year’s time. Next July 1st the two sides could potentially work out an extension, with the benefit of another year of production in the books.
The contract also could be of some use to the other restricted free agents, namely William Nylander just up the road in Toronto. The Maple Leafs forward was selected just six spots after Reinhart in the 2014 draft, and has almost the same number of points in his short career—though in far fewer games. Toronto is infamously in a tight cap situation given their future negotiations with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, though Bob McKenzie of TSN tweets that he doesn’t believe the Maple Leafs or Nylander want to sign a short-term bridge deal.
There is a lot of optimism around the Sabres this season, and now with their final piece signed and heading for training camp the battle for relevancy can once again begin. After finding themselves near the bottom of the standings for some time, the addition of Rasmus Dahlin has the Sabres interested in more. GM Jason Botterill has done plenty of work over the last year to revamp the roster, including trading away key forwards in Evander Kane and Ryan O’Reilly. If this group is to take a step forward, Reinhart and others will need to show they’re ready to compete with the best offensive players in the league.
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