BUFFALO – Nothing could ruin Eric Comrie’s season. Not the goalie’s first significant injury. Not losing the starting job or falling to fourth on the Sabres’ depth chart.
He played just eight of the final 65 games after going down in mid-November. In one of his appearances, he allowed 10 goals. Following rookie goalie Devon Levi’s arrival, he did not play in the final nine contests.
Comrie, 27, faces an uncertain future. Levi, 21, could skip the minors and begin next season in the NHL. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, 24, established himself in net while Comrie recovered from an MCL injury, serving as the starter until Levi took over late.
Still, Comrie, who has one year left on his contract, said he “would love to be here” next season.
“I had so much fun here,” he said April 15 as the Sabres held end-of-season meetings in KeyBank Center. “I love the guys. Love the fans here. Love the atmosphere. First of all, this room is fantastic. The guys in this room are just the best you can ever ask for. I want to play with this group of guys as long as I possibly can.”
The loquacious Comrie never seems to have a bad day. In discussing his unique first season with the Sabres, he repeatedly emphasized the positives he experienced and his happiness for Levi and Luukkonen.
“Two great goaltenders, we can all kind of push each other and see what happens from there,” Comrie said. “Whatever is going to happen is going to happen.”
Comrie had never started regularly in the NHL. So while the gig lasted barely a month, being a No. 1 netminder represented significant progress in his career.
“It was awesome,” he said of starting. “… It was a lot of fun getting an opportunity to play in those games and just really learning. I think I learned a lot through it. I learned how to handle myself and take different things away from it.”
When he returned to health in early January, having been passed by Luukkonen, he earned sporadic action behind the rookie and Craig Anderson, the veteran entrenched as the backup.
Comrie, however, contributed to the Sabres’ playoff push, going 5-1-1 over his final seven appearances from Jan. 26 to March 27. He won his first four starts during that stretch. On March 25, his first outing since a 39-save performance March 9 in a 10-4 loss to the Dallas Stars, he shut out the New York Islanders.
“I was extremely happy with my finish,” he said. “I was extremely happy with the way I was playing considering I was coming back from injury.”
Overall, Comrie played 19 games, tying his career high he set with the Winnipeg Jets in 2021-22. Behind the Sabres’ often porous defense, he compiled a 9-9-1 record with a 3.67 goals-against average and an .886 save percentage.
In the final two weeks of the season, as Levi took over the net, Comrie supported the newcomer.
“For myself, it’s always just about controlling what I can control,” he said. “I’m going to cheer for him. He’s my teammate. I want him to win. I want him to win every single game that he can. I want that, I don’t want anything but that for himself or for the team. He’s such a great human being. Such a great guy. …
“You want to play because you’re playing good and playing good in practice and showing what you can do. You don’t want to be the guy that goes in there hoping for other people to make mistakes so you play. I want him to do the best he can so he pushes me to do the best I can. I think that’s the best relationship you can have.”
It’s unclear where Comrie fits in next season. Anderson, 41, retired earlier this month. If the Sabres go with a Levi and Luukkonen tandem, Comrie could be the odd man out.
It seems unlikely that after carrying three goalies for nearly half the season and four at the end, the Sabres would want an extra one again. But if they utilize two neophytes, they might want Comrie around as insurance.
If the Sabres tried to send Comrie to the Rochester Americans, he could draw interest. Earlier in his career, he was claimed on waivers four times over a two-year stretch.