10 Best Goalie Options for the Buffalo Sabres
With the Buffalo Sabres playoff hopes dimming and fans once again focusing on goaltending, let's look at the 10 best options they have.
Make no mistake what this season was about: contending for a playoff spot. Realistically that mission has been accomplished. The Sabres are nearing the end of the season and are still in the playoff hunt which simply has not been the case for many, many years. Their young players are scoring and developing. The near future looks very bright.
The biggest position in their lineup this season that has been causing concern is goaltender. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has been their developmental player for the past few years and finally got the chance to play his first full NHL season. It has not gone well. He has under a 90% save percentage, well over 3.50 goal against, and has struggled to make big saves when the team has needed them most. In complete fairness to Luukkonen, this is not a fully developed roster, either. It has holes in it's defensive play and can allow a lot of scoring chances. However, this is the NHL. Yes, you're going to get scored on but too often this year he has left the floodgates open on shots he simply has to stop.
The team signed veteran Eric Comrie coming into the season as well as brought back 41-year-old Craig Anderson. Comrie has played worse than Luukkonen. Anderson has actually played well in limited action, posting an over 91% save percentage and around 2.89 GAA. However, because of his age, the team has only played him 24 times.
The good news for the Sabers is the future has arrived. Devon Levi, who posted some of the best seasons ever in college hockey, signed with the team. He is widely considered to be one of, if not the top, goalie prospect in the world. So the Sabres absolutely have their goalie of the future. The only problem with that is it does take time to develop players. While Levi is confident in his abilities and has shown an incredible knack for quickly adapting his game at every level, this is a large leap. One that no one can expect him to make quickly. Goaltending is not a simple position despite what some may think, and Levi will need time.
What Should the Sabres Do?
There's no telling how long it could take for Levi to take the crease full-time in Buffalo. While fixing their goaltending problems this year is off the table, they will have to make the next logical push forward next season, and doing that required an upgrade in net. While they could keep Luukkonen, who is still young, we have to assume Levi will be in Buffalo's AHL affiliate Rochester all season. Comrie and Anderson will not be here. Anderson because he's almost certainly retiring and Comrie because he hasn't earned another year on the team. That means they will have to sign a free agent or trade for a goaltender this offseason.
What the Sabres don't want is a young goalie. They don't want another 41-year-old like Anderson either (respectfully). They need someone who can carry the load or split the time, this coming season and beyond if Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen doesn't improve. SO healthy competition, but not someone who is necessarily in their early 20s. A veteran presence would be a good thing, especially for Levi and also Luukkonen.
Considering who all the free agents are as of now and who has been rumored on the trading block, here are the Top 10 Best Goalie Options for the Buffalo Sabres.