Saturday, July 29, 2017

Sabres re-sign forward Evan Rodrigues at two-years, $1.3 million

Published by, 7-27-2017

The Sabres re-signed restricted free agent Evan Rodrigues today to a two-year deal with a $650,000 AAV. The first year of the deal is a two-way contract for the waiver's exempt Rodrigues and will pay him the same $650K salary whether he plays in Rochester or Buffalo, according to CapFriendly. The second year is a one-way deal.

Rodrigues signed with the Sabres as a free agent out of Boston University in 2015 after riding shotgun on Jack Eichel's wing for the Terriers. Rodrigues finished second in the league in scoring (to Eichel) that season with 54 points (18+36) in 35 games for BU while adding three goals and six assists in six post season games. The Terriers reached the NCAA championship game that year but lost to the Providence Friars in the Frozen Four Final.

One could easily think that the Rodrigues signing was a nod by then GM Tim Murray to Eichel as the Sabres were set him second-overall two months later. There were also those weren't sure if Rodrigues could stand alone without Eichel. After a slow start to his first pro campaign, Rodrigues showed the same skills he displayed in college. It took him 17 games to record his first goal for the Amerks and he only had three assists in the process. He tallied eight more goals and 18 more assists the rest of the way as he got a better feel for the way the pro game was played. He also got a taste of the NHL that year recording a goal and an assists in two games for the Sabres.

Rodrigues didn't look out of place in Buffalo for those two games and he took that experience with him back to Rochester for the 2016-17 season. He ended up with the exact same Amerks stat line of nine goals and 21 assists but did so in only 48 games as opposed to 72 the prior season. He also played in 30 games for the Sabres scoring four goals and adding two assists.

Although drafted as a winger, Rodrigues found himself playing center, often times playing both, sometimes within the same game. After one game in Columbus (a 4-3 loss) where he scored the first goal of the game (and the first one on the Blue Jackets Sergei Bobrovsky in 182:50), he was asked by a reporter if it was an easy transition for him. "I've been doing it all year," he replied. "There's no real difficulty in that. You're either taking draws or you're not."

Probably more difficult for him than switching positions was an AHL environment where the structure isn't there an oft times players aren't where they should be. Rodrigues has a strong hockey IQ and he told me later in that same post-game interview about the differences in the two leagues. "The players around here (the NHL) are really smart up here," he said. "I've been able to kind of read off of them and play my game." When asked if it was more structured he said, "Yeah, a little bit. I think that's what I'm kind of taking advantage of, knowing where guys are going to be. And I'm playing with good players too so both of those things together are working in my favor."

With the Rodrigues signing, Sabres GM Jason Botterill has only two more restricted free agents to re-sign--F, Zemgus Girgensons and D, Nathan Beaulieu who has an arbitration case scheduled for August 4.

As for Rodrigues, there are openings in the Sabres forward group and although we're not sure he has the chops yet to run shotgun again on Eichel's wing, he's certainly developed well enough to make a strong push for a spot amongst the top-12 forwards. If he doesn't make it, expectations are high for him to have an impact season in Rochester.

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