Devon Levi began his rookie season as Buffalo’s No. 1 goalie. ©2024, Micheline Veluvolu

With UPL, Devon Levi in Buffalo, Sabres plan to add goalie depth for minors

BUFFALO – When the Sabres look for goaltending this summer, they want to add depth for their minor league affiliates, not any immediate help for the NHL.

General manager Kevyn Adams said the team’s net belongs to Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, 25, and Devon Levi, 22, next season.

“My plan is … we are going to have two real talented goaltenders playing on a nightly basis,” Adams said Thursday in KeyBank Center during media availability to discuss this weekend’s NHL Draft.

Adams’ words were hardly surprising. While Luukkonen’s superb play pushed Levi to the minors as a rookie in 2023-24, the Sabres seemed intent months ago on utilizing the youngsters next season.

“We really like the position we’re in with having UPL and Devon Levi as still young, developing goaltenders, guys we think are going to continue to grow and get better, that are extremely talented, hard-working, and character people,” Adams said. “So that’s a good place to start.”

Luukkonen, as his 27 wins and five shutouts illustrate, has earned the No. 1 job. The Finn morphed into a workhorse, playing a career-high 54 games, including 35 of the last 41 contests after beginning the season as the second or third goalie behind Levi and veteran Eric Comrie.

Levi, who began the season as the Sabres’ starter, needed regular action, so they assigned him to the Rochester Americans, occasionally recalling him. He thrived in the AHL, compiling a .927 save percentage in 26 regular-season games and a .923 mark in five appearances in the Calder Cup Playoffs.

The Sabres will likely pursue at least one established netminder for the Amerks when free agency opens Monday. Last summer, they awarded a combined $850,000 on one-year contracts for Dustin Tokarski, a decorated AHL goalie, and Devin Cooley, a young veteran, to play in the minors.

Neither got on track. The arrival of Levi and Comrie, who played four games, limited their playing time. The Sabres traded Cooley before the deadline. Tokarski, 34, could be an option for next season, although he might look elsewhere after playing just 24 games.

In recent seasons, Michael Houser, who has played six games for the Sabres, has served as the organization’s fourth or fifth goalie, often moving between Rochester and the ECHL.

“It’s a tough position,” Adams said of goaltending. “So we’re open-minded. … We’ll make sure we have depth covered. It’s a conversation that we’re open to looking at different options, different things. But that’s our plan at the moment.”

Adams said Jerry Forton, who was recently promoted to assistant GM, will still oversee the amateur scouting department. A replacement won’t be named.

“I really like the way our amateur scouting department operates,” Adams said. “We’ve had some continuity over the last two, three years, which I think helps as well. He’ll add the pro into his day-to-day and sit in on more management meetings, roster discussions, that stuff. That will be added to his plate, but I don’t think anything will change in terms of the day-to-day from our scouting.”

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