Published by hockeybuzz.com, 7-17-2018
The Buffalo Sabres announced yesterday afternoon announced the signing of restricted free agent forward C.J. Smith to a one-year, two-way deal. Smith's contract will pay him $874,125 at the NHL level and, according to CapFreindly, a $70,000 minor league salary. Buffalo GM Jason Botterill sent qualifying offers to six RFA's late last month and to this point five have signed at that qualifying offer with all of those contracts being one-year, two-way deals. In addition to Smith, Sean Malone, Nicholas Baptiste, Danny O'Regan and Justin Bailey are now under contract with Buffalo.
The only remaining RFA is 2014 second-overall pick Sam Reinhart who just finished his three-year entry-level deal after a one-year entry-level slide.
The 23 yr. old Smith just came off of a stellar campaign where he was named Rochester Americans rookie of the Year. His 17 goals and 44 points placed the UMass-Lowell product third on the Amerks in scoring and 10th amongst AHL rookies. Although somewhat small at 5'11" 185 lbs., the Des Moines, Iowa native plays an honest two-way game on the wing and isn't afraid to take on whatever comes at him on the ice. He's also been able to produce at every level and showed off his competitive edge at the pro prospect-level by scoring six points (2+4) in three 2017 Prospect Challenge games last year.
Reinhart's contract negotiations are much more difficult than the previous five in that he has three full seasons plus a nine-game audition with the Sabres under his belt. In 249 games the 22 yr. old Reinhart has 65 goals and 140 points but his Jekyll and Hyde 2017-18 season makes projections extremely difficult. The 6'1" 192 lb. forward who does his best work on the wing was virtually non-existent through the 2017 portion of the schedule scoring only 11 points (5+6) through the first 38 games before blowing up for 20 goals and 19 assists in 44 games beginning January 1.
Which Sam Reinhart will the Sabres be signing? For how long? And how much?
The Smith signing brings the total number of pro contracts in Buffalo to 47 with only Reinhart left to go. The Sabres roster right now has 21 players--12 forwards, seven defensemen and two goalies--while the rest of the organization has 26 pro player contracts including Matt Moulson who's contract was buried in the minors last season and looks to be so this season.
With August coming, the dog days of summer are upon us and the hockey world, but Botterill will still have some work to do. After the expected signing of Reinhart, the Sabres will have 13 forwards with both Baptiste and Bailey out of waiver options and likely to be claimed if sent down. Defenseman Casey Nelson is in the same boat and it's assumed the Sabres will want to keep him bringing the total to eight d-men right now. Add in the two goalies and that would be 25 roster players, not including defenseman Brendan Guhle who's expected to be in the mix out of camp.
Something's got to give.
Until then, all eyes are on Reinhart and his contract at this point.