Chad Johnson played for the Sabres in 2015-16. ©2017, Hickling Images, Olean Times Herald

Sabres sign Chad Johnson, Benoit Pouliot as free agency opens

BUFFALO – The Sabres brought back an old friend shortly after free agency opened today, signing backup goalie Chad Johnson to a one-year deal worth $2.5 million.

The 31-year-old spent last season with his hometown Calgary Flames, going 18-15-1 with a 2.59 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage in 36 games.

The Flames traded his rights to the Arizona Coyotes last month.

With started Robin Lehner injured, Johnson morphed into the Sabres’ unsung hero and backbone two years ago, posting terrific numbers – 22-16-4, 2.36 and .930 – in 45 games.

“(I want) to come back and compete with and push this team into being a playoff team,” Johnson said this afternoon on a conference call. “When I left … I always thought I had unfinished business. The year I was there, the second half, I had a really good year and wanted to continue that.”

He almost re-signed a year ago, but elected to head home.

Update: The Sabres have signed winger Benoit Pouliot to a one-year deal worth $1.15 million.

The Sabres will be the 30-year-old’s seventh NHL team. Pouliot had eight goals and 14 points in 67 games last season with the Edmonton Oilers.

The Oilers waived Pouliot on Thursday to buy out the final two seasons of his five-year, $20 million contract.

“I’m hoping to get a good look in Buffalo and a fresh start,” Pouliot said this afternoon on a conference call. “I’m going to be 31 years old. I’m not 23, 24 anymore. So I think I’m just looking for the best opportunity for me to extend my career.

“Buffalo is team that’s rebuilding everything, and it’s the same thing for me in Edmonton, the first year I signed.”

Some late-afternoon updates from Sabres general manager Jason Botterill:

– Botterill said the Sabres are still interested in 38-year-old winger Brian Gionta, their captain the last three seasons.

“I have a ton of respect for what Brian can bring to the team and bring to the organization,” he said. “We’ll just continue to have those discussions.”

– Botterill denied an NHL Network report the Sabres made a seven-year offer to defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.

“That’s certainly not the case,” he said. “We never put a seven-year contract on the table. We had some good conversations with the Shattenkirk camp. It was a situation where when we got (Marco) Scandella in a trade we felt we had shored up our defense. That really was not our priority.”

– Botterill also said goalie coach Andrew Allen will return next season.

Update: The Sabres have signed defenseman Matt Tennyson to a two-year contract. The 27-year-old has a two-way deal next season and a one-way deal in 2018-19.

The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Minneapolis native played a career-high 45 games last season with the Carolina Hurricanes, recording six assists and six penalty minutes. Tennyson has three goals and 20 points in his 105-game NHL career.

Update: The Sabres have signed forward Seth Griffith to a one-year, $650,000 contract.

The 24-year-old played 24 games last season with the Florida Panthers and Toronto Maple Leafs, compiling five assists.

The 5-foot-9, 191-pound Griffith also had 10 goals and 44 points in 38 AHL games. Griffith could be ticketed for the Rochester Americans. He has been one of the AHL’s top scorers in recent seasons, producing 66 goals and 202 points in 203 games.

Update: The Sabres have added more AHL depth, signing forwards Kevin Porter and Kyle Criscuolo to two-year, two-way contracts.

The 31-year-old old Porter played 43 games for the Sabres from 2012 to 2014 and also captained Rochester. He spent the last two seasons shuttling between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Wilkes-Barre, their AHL affiliate, a team Sabres general manager Jason Botterill ran.

The 5-foot-9, 191-pound former Hobey Baker winner has 29 goals and 58 points in 249 NHL games.

The 25-year-old Criscuolo, meanwhile, had 17 goals and 41 points in 76 AHL games last season with the Calder-Cup winning Grand Rapids Griffins.

The 5-foot-9, 175 Harvard product has never played in the NHL.

Update: Yes, more AHL signings! The Sabres have inked goalie Adam Wilcox to one-year, two-way contract.

The 24-year-old played with the Syracuse Crunch and Springfield Thunderbirds last season, going 25-13-7 with a 2.63 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage.

The 6-foot, 189-pound St. Paul native was the Big Ten Player of the Year at the University of Minnesota in 2013-14.

Update: The Sabres have signed 6-foot, 190-pound center Jacob Josefson to a one-year, $700,000 contract, according to reports.

The 26-year-old Swede spent the last seven years with the New Jersey Devils, compiling 18 goals and 60 points in 276 games.

Some former Sabres have already landed elsewhere.

Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, a colossal disappointment last season as he battled a lower-back bruise, signed a three-year deal with the Winnipeg Jets, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger.

Backup goalie Anders Nilsson, meanwhile, signed a two-year, $5 million contract with the Vancouver Canucks, according to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun.

Center Cal O’Reilly signed a two-way contract with the Minnesota Wild, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Mike Russo.

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