The Sabres have finalized qualifying offers for restricted free agents and will be sending offers to six of their nine RFAs, General Manager Jason Botterill said Monday.
The Sabres will not be extending offers to goaltender Robin Lehner, defenseman Victor Antipin and forward Scott Wilson -- but Botterill said the team is simply doing a paper move with Wilson to avoid salary arbitration and intends to work out a deal with him on Sunday, the start of unrestricted free agency.
Botterill revealed Friday in Dallas that Lehner will not be back as the team's starting goaltender and revealed the team's RFA moves to reporters on Monday. Getting one-year qualifying offers will be six forwards: Sam Reinhart, Justin Bailey, Nick Baptiste, C.J. Smith, Sean Malone and Danny O'Regan. The team is negotiating a longer-term extension for Reinhart.
Antipin, 25, had no goals and 10 assists while posting a minus-9 rating for the Sabres in 47 games last season, his first in the NHL after coming from the KHL.
Antipin was hampered by a severe flu bug, and his campaign ended prematurely when he endured a vicious hit from behind by Nashville's Scott Hartnell during Buffalo's 7-4 win March 30 in Bridgestone Arena.
There have been strong rumors of Antipin wanting to return to the KHL, but Botterill reiterated Monday that may not be the case. As for the lack of a qualifying offer, the Sabres' system is teeming with defense prospects now with the drafting of Rasmus Dahlin, the signing of Swedish standout Lawrence Pilut and the trade acquisition of Brandon Hickey, so Antipin became expendable.
"We were really impressed with Victor. I know things didn't go as well as he liked on the ice but off ice, he fit in with our locker room extremely well," Botterill said. "He was a player that really struggled with the English language but did all the lessons, and I know he's still looking for opportunities in North America. I hope it materializes for him."
Wilson, a Stanley Cup champion with Pittsburgh in 2017, had six goals and eight assists in 49 games for the Sabres last year after being acquired in a November trade from Detroit. He had no points in 20 games between the Penguins and Red Wings before landing in Buffalo.
By not giving Wilson a qualifying offer and turning him into an unrestricted free agent, the Sabres are avoiding the possibility of salary arbitration.
'That's just not a process we wanted to go through with him so we're optimistic we can get something done with him on July 1," Botterill said.