Kyle Okposo saw the right type of winning core with the Buffalo Sabres.
The former New York Islanders winger didn’t mind the fact that the team hasn’t made the playoffs since the 2010-11 season.
He believes in young centers Jack Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly. He sees a championship caliber ownership in Terry Pegula. Of course, a seven-year $42 million contract offer from the Sabres didn’t hurt either, but ultimately Okposo, who was one of the most coveted UFAs this summer, chose Buffalo because he thinks the organization is due for a major step forward.
“What sold me was … the chance to win a Stanley Cup. I think we have a lot of pieces in play that can help us achieve that goal, and that was the first factor. I looked at their forwards, and especially their top-two centers, O’Reilly and Eichel, those guys are going to continue to get better, especially Jack. He’s got superstar status, and you definitely need that to win a Stanley Cup,” Okposo said. “As an organization, I didn’t hear one bad thing about the Buffalo Sabres. I think the organization really reflects upon your owner, and I’ve heard that the Pegulas do a fantastic job and are great people to play for and work for.”
Okposo said that playing the Sabres last season – the team was a much more difficult group to deal with. The prior offseason they added Eichel and O’Reilly and Okposo believed that his big, scoring presence could help the team moving forward. Okposo has 67 goals and 117 assists in 201 games over the last three seasons.
Last season Okposo held a 51.06 score and venue adjusted 5-on-5 CF% and a plus-2.57 5-on-5 score and venue adjusted CF% Rel.
The Sabres improved from 54 points in 2014-15 to 81 points last year.
“I hope I can provide just a veteran presence. I’ve gone through this before where I kind of went through the rebuild a couple years ago. I think they’re at an accelerated rate. I think last year they were really hard to play against,” Okposo said. “I think they’ve definitely come a long way from the year before. So having gone through kind of a rebuild and knowing the next step that needs to come, I think we can get there quicker than I can with the Islanders.”
The uncertainty of the free agent process was difficult for Okposo. Even though it all worked out in the end with him getting a rich, new contract, his inability to plan created pressure for him and his family.
“It was a bit stressful to be honest with you. You just didn’t really know what was going to happen and my wife is a planner and when she kind of can’t plan things out it kind of goes awry and I’ve become much more like that since we got married,” Okposo said. “So I kind of wanted a plan and when you don’t really have a plan and it’s kind of a week of mystery not knowing what’s going to happen. It could be a little bit stressful.”
With Okposo in the fold the Sabres now have one of the bigger, brawnier groups of forwards in the Eastern Conference that can continue to accelerate their rebuild.
“It means a lot. It means, what I have felt since I’ve got here, that we can be a destination for good players. I think this shows that we are,” Murray said. “He’s a hell of a player. He’s a goal scorer, he’s got a power forward’s body. He’s put up very good numbers.”
MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY
– – – – – – –