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Buffalo Sabers News & Rumors: Savoie, McLeod, Jokiharju & More – Hockey Writers – Buffalo Sabers

In this edition of Buffalo Sabers News & Rumors, we take a look at the eventful day that was July 5. The Sabers traded star Matthew Savoie to the Edmonton Oilers, brought in Ryan McLeod and Tyler Tullio, re-signed Henri Jokiharju, and added restricted free agents for settlement.

Sabers Trade Top Prospect to Oilers

It’s not often that a team that has been out of the picture for years trades one of its best prospects. Some believe that Savoie was the best; some believe he was the top three; regardless, the hope of his character is not often sold.

Savoie was drafted ninth overall in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft and has since debated his name on the list as one of the top five prospects in that class.

Matt Savoie, Buffalo Sabers (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

Savoie played most of his season in the Western Hockey League (WHL), his fourth season. In those three years, Savoie has 161 games and 256 outstanding points. Savoie was among the WHL’s best in points per game, including leading the league in 2023-24. After dominating the WHL, Savoie signed with the Sabers to join the organization and had the opportunity to play one NHL game and six American Hockey League (AHL) games.

Related: Oilers Trade Ryan McLeod to Sabers For Prospect Matt Savoie

His five points in six AHL games were impressive, and this player has a lot of talent. He will likely transition to an NHL wing, or that seemed to be the plan with the Sabres. For the Oilers, they may have a different development path in mind.

It brings McLeod and Tullio

The Sabers’ goal here was clearly going to help the team now. Savoie was one of their top prospects, but with one of the league’s best and deepest prospect pools, they can afford to take a risk. Throwing away star prospects is wrong, but that didn’t happen with this trade.

McLeod is coming off a great season with the Oilers, where he posted 30 points in 81 games. At only 24 years old, McLeod still has the potential to develop into a complete player. The Oilers’ forward depth left McLeod unavailable for the time being, and after signing Jeff Skinner, Adam Henrique, and the uncertainty of Evander Kane, they were determined to move on. At the very least, McLeod will be a solid bottom-six penalty-killing center.

The bottom-six center is just down for McLeod, though. With more room to move up the roster, McLeod can take advantage and shine for the Sabres. He won’t turn into a top-line point-per-game center, but if he can increase his production with more ice time, there’s a reasonable chance he can be a 45+-two-way center. The club is truly a treasure.

As for Tullio, he is a former fifth-round pick by the Oilers, and after dominating the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) in his third season, he moved up to the AHL. His production hasn’t translated as well as some had hoped, but Tullio has scored just under half a point per game as a six-game winner for the Bakersfield Condors.

The value may not be apparent at all, even more so, and this trade has the potential to be difficult to look back on, but hope is never a sure thing. Savoie was very close to one, but he has yet to prove anything at the NHL level, and the Sabers were willing to take a chance on this deal.

The Sabers brought back Jokiharju

The Sabers re-signed Jokiharju to a one-year contract worth $3.1 million. While many point to that and say it’s a lot of money, the Sabers have a lot of cap space left. With top-tier free agents remaining, they have room to make these signings to avoid arbitration.

Jokiharju is a deep defenseman who is versatile enough to play at the top of the lineup and can match up against better defenders. Still, he’s not strong enough defensively to be a true lockable defender, and he can’t produce enough offense to be a top-four option. He’s also not physical, but he can move the puck well and help in transition. His puck movement doesn’t often translate to the score sheet, but he adds value to the lineup.

Having a defender like Jokiharju helps because you can put him anywhere, and he will play the same game. Ideally, you would like a reliable defender, but as a potential number six or seven defender, he is perfectly suited to that role.

The Luukkonen and Malenstyn Arbitration File

The 5 p.m. July 5 deadline for player-selected arbitration has passed, and two Sabers players have filed requests to meet with an impartial arbitrator to finalize a deal. This means that no player is eligible for the offer sheet right now.

A deal can still be agreed upon until the player and club go to arbitration, which often happens. Arbitration is difficult for players, as the team will come up with many reasons to undervalue the player and avoid the good.

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen is one of the players, or in this case, the goalkeeper, who contributed. After a breakout year with the Sabres, he deserves a significant raise to his $837,500 salary in 2023-24. His 27-22-4 record and .910 save percentage showed he could be a starting goaltender. The Sabers signed James Reimer and Felix Sandstrom to add to their goaltending depth and have star prospect Devon Levi, who is looking to enter the NHL full time, so the Sabers are likely to avoid a long deal unless they can keep the cap down. .

Beck Malenstyn, a recent draft pick, finished his first full season in the NHL with 25 points in 81 games. He was acquired to bolster the forward depth, and his good skating, physicality, and ability to draw penalties are assets the Sabers were interested in. He also filed for arbitration, but with an incoming contract with a low cap hit, this one. it is more likely to be done before meeting with the mediator.

Again, it was a busy day in Buffalo, but this move adds depth and creates competition among the roster. Having enough depth to have a mix of proven NHLers and top big-league prospects challenge for a roster spot creates more drive for players, and the Sabers do a great job of making sure the bottom-six and bottom-four are competitive, and have plenty of options.

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