The Buffalo Sabres got an important part of their offensive attack under contract on the weekend - though only for one season. Right winger Sam Reinhart re-upped for $5.2 million on a deal that covers the 2020-21 campaign, at the end of which he will still be a restricted free agent.
The upcoming season will be crucial for the Sabres, who have wandered in the wilderness for years and struggled to build around franchise center Jack Eichel. But it was a big summer in Buffalo, as new GM Kevyn Adams managed to snag one of the biggest free agents on the market in left winger Taylor Hall. Like Reinhart, the speedy Hall is only under contract for one season in Buffalo.
Adams' other major off-season move was acquiring veteran center and Stanley Cup winner Eric Staal in a trade with Minnesota for Marcus Johansson. Staal, 35, is also on the final year of his contract.
So when the campaign gets underway (fingers crossed for January), a lot of eyes will be on the new-look Sabres. Should Buffalo come together and make a run at a playoff spot for the first time since 2011, then trying to keep players such as Hall and Staal would make sense. If the Sabres stumble however, it would only be prudent to see what the open market would fetch for the two veteran forwards. Both Hall and Staal have some say in the matter of course (Hall has a no-move clause in his contract while Staal has a modified no-trade clause), but if the trade was to a Cup contender, it wouldn't be hard to see them agreeing to such a move.
Reinhart is in a different situation, however. His rights will still belong to the Sabres next summer and while he will have arbitration rights, his decision will revolve more around term and dollars. Adams, the GM, will be making the same assessment from the Sabres' end.
Reinhart has consistently broken the 20-goal mark the past three seasons and didn't miss a game in any of those campaigns. He has played well on Eichel's wing and established a career-high in 2019-20 when he hit 65 points. At 24, he is currently in the prime years of his NHL career, but should continue to be in that window for at least another five seasons, if not longer.
Really, the only question on Reinhart's end involves how much he wants to bet on himself in the future. The arrival of Hall and Staal makes Buffalo a lot more scary on offense and that could hypothetically lift up Reinhart's totals as well. If that comes to be, a long-term contract would be great for the two-way winger when he goes for his contract extension. If the 2020-21 season doesn't quite go his way, perhaps another short bridge deal would make sense for him.
Naturally, the Sabres will have their own calculus to do, but there doesn't seem to be much risk surrounding Reinhart, even if his next contract clocks in at seven or eight years. Yes, the dollar amount will matter, but the Sabres are in a good spot cap-wise for the future.
If you're looking for a rough comparable for Reinhart, San Jose's Timo Meier is making $6 million on his current four-year contract and he's the same age, with about the same offensive production this past season. Now, the market dictates a lot and Meier signed before NHL GMs realized a flattened salary cap was coming, but again - this is a loose comparison.
What we do know is that Reinhart has been a key part of Buffalo's offense in recent years and if he keeps it up, he can expect a raise from the already-lucrative amount he got on his latest deal - and if he earns that raise, the Sabres will be happy to make it happen.