Following the end of his first season in Buffalo, center Tyson Jost talked about what a special group he had joined and how badly he wanted to return to the Sabres.
On Friday, the Sabres did not give Jost, 25, a qualifying offer, meaning he can become an unrestricted free agent when the market opens Saturday.
General manager Kevyn Adams, however, has said he wants Jost to return. By not extending him an offer as a restricted free agent, the Sabres can try to re-sign him for less than the $2.25 million he earned last season.
Adams said earlier this week the Sabres have been talking to Jost’s camp and “the ball’s in his court a little bit now.”
Jost played 59 games after Sabres claimed him on waivers from the Minnesota Wild in November, recording seven goals, 22 points and a minus-9 rating.
The Sabres, meanwhile, gave qualifying offers to wingers Brett Murray and Linus Weissbach, both of whom spent all of last season with the Rochester Americans.
Two other restricted free agents – defenseman Kale Clague and forward Matej Pekar – did not receive qualifying offers.
Clague, 25, began last season in Rochester before sticking in Buffalo following a recall in December. He compiled four assists and a minus-4 rating in 33 games for the Sabres. Pekar, 23, spent time in AHL and ECHL last year. The Czech, once one of the Sabres’ more intriguing prospects because of his agitating style, has battled injuries over his career.
The Sabres likely won’t be too active in free agency when the market opens at noon. Most of their roster is set. Right now, they have 22 NHL players under contract and $14,459,763 in projected salary cap space, according to capfriendly.com.
Adams has been open about his desire to add another defenseman, likely one that would skate among the top four, either through free agency or a trade.
“It’s an area that we’ve identified we’d like to help our NHL roster improve, just depth and quality and also going back to how we just started with injuries (last season), making sure that we have depth to cover ourselves,” Adams said Thursday in Nashville after the NHL Draft ended.
He added: “I don’t think there’s a defenseman out there that I haven’t been talking to teams about and we’ll continue that.”
Defensemen Matt Dumba, 28, and Dmitry Orlov, 31, are two of the top free agents available at any position.
The Sabres could also try to add scoring depth because winger Jack Quinn tore his Achilles tendon earlier this week and underwent surgery. While Adams wouldn’t reveal Quinn’s recovery time, he said it’s “significant.”
Adams acknowledged earlier this week he has been exploring a trade for 28-goal winger Victor Olofsson, who sat out games as a healthy scratch down the stretch last season. With Quinn sidelined, keeping him might be a better option.
Usually there’s a flurry of trade activity at the draft. But this year, very few deals materialized, and most of them were salary dumps.
Adams prefers to build his roster through the draft.
“It’s why this is so important to us, drafting and developing our players and retaining our players,” he said. “But if we think there’s someone on the free agent market here in the next few days as we get to July 1 that makes sense, then we’ll definitely target that.”