On Tuesday the Buffalo Sabres announced that the team has signed restricted free agent goaltender Linus Ullmark to a two-year deal worth an average of $750,000 per year.
We've signed Linus Ullmark to a 2-year deal.
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) June 13, 2017
“Linus has worked hard both on and off the ice, and his performance at both the NHL and AHL levels has reflected those efforts,” said Sabres General Manager Jason Botterill. “He made great strides during his second season in North America and we are eager to see him continue his development.”
The 23-year-old goaltender has appeared in 21 NHL games with the Sabres, posting an 8-11-2 record along with a 2.62 goal against average and .913 save percentage. This year in Rochester, Ullmark started 55 games and went 26-27-2.
Well things just got very interesting, didn't they? Only Botterill knows for sure, but perhaps the Sabres will choose to protect Ullmark in next weeks expansion draft, rather than starting goaltender Robin Lehner. To be clear, I don't think that's what will happen, but it could.
Last year, Lehner, aside from shootouts, had an impressive season and kept the Sabres in a lot of games they had no business being in. That being said, he is set to become a restricted free agent next year.
Maybe Botterill is hoping that the Vegas Golden Knights will pass on Lehner and jump at a goalie like Marc-Andre Fleury from the Penguins instead. That way, the Sabres could go into next season with both Lehner and Ullmark.That,of course, could still happen if the Sabres leave Ullmark unprotected.
Lehner might be the better goalie right now, but if Ullmark is left unprotected he would be a very viable and cheap option for the Knights. Ullmark has shown progress and this might be the Sabres way of trying to keep both goaltenders around next year. If the Sabres decide to protect Lehner, Botterill will just hope Vegas doesn't take Ullmark off their hands.
By the way, 16 days until Cal Petersen becomes a free agent.