Despite some high priced talent that they’d probably like to cut loose, the Buffalo Sabres have not unloaded any significant pieces via trade or with the use of one of their compliance buyouts. Given the state their franchise is currently in, this could be seen as something of a surprise.
Perhaps the most surprising is that Ville Leino still has a place on this team. His contract has backfired in the face of the organization, both because of his health and because of his inability to put up numbers on a consistent basis. Which is what makes the upcoming season a make-or-break year for him.
In his first season with the Sabres, Leino appeared in 71 games. Coming off of a season in which he posted 53 points, he was able to earn a lucrative contract heading into that first season. It was a year that saw him post just 25 points, including only eight goals. Not a good start.
Then came the 2013 season, his second year with the franchise. He was limited to only eight games, all towards the end of March before he was eventually shut down again. So after a year of disappointment, and a year of failure to stay healthy, and with four years and a $4.5 million cap hit remaining, why wasn’t he bought out?
For one, his contract isn’t completely unfavorable anymore, given what some free agents have been handed in the last couple of summers. For another, he was strong in the games that he did appear in in 2013, with six points in eight games. He’s still a versatile player as well, capable of playing in the middle or out on the wing.
That doesn’t mean that the 2013-14 season is any less of a make-or-break year for him. The compliance buyouts will be available next summer as well, and the Sabres have yet to use one. If Leino encounters another season of disappointment and/or health issues, don’t expect to see him back beyond this year.