Published by hockeybuzz.com, 7-8-2018
Late last month Sabres GM Jason Botterill qualified six Buffalo restricted free agents. According to the Buffalo News, these were the players, their salaries last season and their qualifying offers:
--F Justin Bailey $650,000/$715,000
--F Nick Baptiste $750,000/$787,500
--F Sean Malone $750,000/$787,500
--F Danny O’Regan $832,500/$874,125
--F Sam Reinhart $832,500/$874,125
--F C.J. Smith $832,500/$874,125
Today we look at F, Sam Reinhart.
Reinhart would be the logical choice to work on first as he is the player with the pedigree, draft position, NHL stats and highest upside of this group. The 2014 second-overall pick tied with Jack Eichel for the team-lead in goals last season (25) and in three full seasons with the Sabres averaged over 21 goals and 46 points while missing only six regular season games.
The questions surrounding Reinhart include whether or not head coach Phil Housley will continue to use him at wing in a top-six role and whether the second half of last season was a jumping off point to a breakout campaign or a case of lighting it up in a contract year. Reinhart finished off the season with 20 goals and 19 assists in 44 games beginning with the 2018 New Year's Day Winter Classic.
Although Reinhart was drafted as a center, former head coach Dan Bylsma used him on the wing while also putting him in front of the net on the powerplay and the rookie responded with a 23 goal, 42 points season. Things reversed the following season to more "Reinhart-like" stats as the crafty distributor tallied 17 goals and 30 assists. But under Housley things fell apart for Reinhart as the rookie head coach put him back at center and they changed up the powerplay, which had been No. 1 in the league the prior season.
A flustered Reinhart struggled but found himself in New York City under the bright lights of the Winter Classis. He told reporters after the season that he found himself and his game and that's why he was able to produce at a more than point-per-game this calendar year.
Yet the cynics in Buffalo, and make no mistake, their cynicism is warranted, will point to a player like Drew Stafford who loafed around for much of his contract years before reaching his potential in a contract-year. In looking at Reinhart's season, their question is, "Where the hell was this Sam when it counted?"
That, undoubtedly, will be one of the questions for his agent and that will probably be one of the main reasons that he only gets a bridge contract.
A 25-goal, 25-assist season as a 22 yr. old on a lousy team is nothing to sneeze at so it seems to reason that he'll be at least in the $3.5-4 million price range. Term may ultimately dictate what Reinhart ends up with but I don't think either side should be unhappy with a 3yr./$11 million deal.