The Buffalo Sabres sign a top line winger in Kyle Okposo
Despite drafting Jack Eichel, and trading for both Ryan O’Reilly and Evander Kane, the Sabres still managed to finish the season last year with the second-lowest rate of five-on-five goals in the NHL. It was clear that some more scoring punch was needed, and they got exactly that by signing Kyle Okposo:
7 years, $6M AAV for Okposo in BUF— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) July 1, 2016
I get the trepidation with Okposo, as he may be viewed in a light of simply being a product of John Tavares. This is especially true in Buffalo, the team still paying Matt Moulson. I would argue that Okposo is not simply a Tavares product, though:
- Okposo points/60 minutes at five-on-five with Tavares since 2012: 2.12
- Okposo points/60 minutes at five-on-five without Tavares since 2012: 1.98
While that is a drop in point production, no doubt, but 1.98 points per 60 minutes at five-on-five is similar over the last four years to names like Jakub Voracek (2.01), Jordan Eberle (1.98), and James Neal (1.95). So even if he is just around two points per 60 minutes, at least for the next few years, that is easily top-line production.
That is why I don’t really worry about this contract, especially considering that Okposo will be playing with one of O’Reilly or Eichel.
Who this affects positively, in order:
The Sabres were missing a true, top-flight right winger last year. Sure, Sam Reinhart looks to be that player, and he will be eventually, likely as quickly as a year or two. But when Reinhart was on the top line with O’Reilly and Kane, it really left Eichel by himself on the second line. Now, with Okposo on the top line, Eichel has a good, young winger in Reinhart that he can develop chemistry with, and gives O’Reilly a proven top-line winger on his right side. I think this helps push O’Reilly back to the 25-goal plateau, and back over the 60-point mark again next year.
With Okposo gone from Brooklyn, it seems there’s a top line right wing spot open alongside John Tavares. I still believe in Strome’s ability, and think he gets a shot out of the gate.
Even with a fairly disastrous season last year that saw him demoted to the NHL, Strome’s career points/60 minutes mark is still 1.80, which puts him firmly as a second line producer to this point. At the age of 23, Strome is coming into his prime, and with a vacancy on the top line, he should get a shot with Tavares. He will make a solid buy-low/draft cheap guy for next season.
Who this affects negatively, in order:
Not that Gionta had a ton of fantasy value, but the addition of Okposo likely pushes Gionta out of the top-six at even strength, and off the top power play unit. His fantasy relevance now is gone.
Okposo joining the Sabres is a minor negative for Reinhart, if only because I don’t think he gets a plethora of ice time next year with this move. With that said, he should get lots of time to work with Eichel, and that’s probably a good thing in the long run. It doesn’t really change my outlook on Reinhart long-term, but it does change things for me with him next year. Instead of clearing the 50-point mark, which I think he would have done with top line minutes, I feel safer slotting Reinhart for 45-50.
*Stats from Hockey Reference and Hockey Analysis. Cap info from CapFriendly.
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