After dealing with various injuries and experiencing some of the darkest days in Sabres history during his five-plus seasons with the team, Zach Bogosian's time in Buffalo likely came to an end Saturday.
The 29-year-old defenseman was assigned to the Rochester Americans after clearing waivers, potentially providing him with an opportunity to showcase his skill in a contract year and giving the Sabres an additional $1.075 million in cap space ahead of the Feb. 24 trade deadline.
The next move is Bogosian's, though. His agent, Darren Ferris, told The Buffalo News in a text message that the two plan to meet in the coming days to determine the "next steps." Bogosian has yet to decide if he will report to Rochester.
Sabres coach Ralph Krueger declined to comment on the Sabres' decision to place Bogosian on waivers after he was a healthy scratch in 17 of the previous 26 games.
"It’s a management, organizational conversation," coach Ralph Krueger said. "I always work with the players that are here. I have no other information for you."
Bogosian is in the final year of a $36 million contract he signed with Winnipeg in July 2013. He had one goal with four assists in 19 games this season after undergoing hip surgery last April and suffering a setback during his rehab over the summer.
Bogosian played 10 consecutive games for the Sabres after making his season debut Nov. 24, and he reportedly requested a trade when he was a healthy scratch against Nashville on Dec. 12. General Manager Jason Botterill was unable to find a team interested in taking on Bogosian's $5.142 million cap hit. His last game as a Sabre was Feb. 4, a 6-1 loss to Colorado in which he had a minus-3 rating in 17:09.
Bogosian was part of former General Manager Tim Murray's plan to expedite the Sabres' rebuild amid the tank season in 2014-15. Bogosian, a former third overall draft pick, was acquired in February 2015 along with Evander Kane and goalie Jason Kasdorf from Winnipeg in exchange for Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, Joel Armia, Brendan Lemieux and a first-round draft pick.
Bogosian had 114 points in six seasons between Atlanta and Winnipeg, while Kane was a former 30-goal scorer. The trade, and others like it, depleted the Sabres' depth.
Kane scored 68 goals in parts of three seasons in Buffalo before he was traded to San Jose in February 2018. Bogosian, meanwhile, did not play more than 65 games in any of his six seasons in Buffalo, missing 170 games due to injury during that span.
Bogosian underwent two hip surgeries, the first of which limited him to 18 games in 2017-18. He has not played more than 70 games in any season since 2010-11 with the Atlanta Thrashers.
"He’s had a tough road here dealing with the rehabs and trying to get himself back to what he feels is his best," Sabres captain Jack Eichel said. "When you have surgeries like the ones he’s had, it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s something that takes a while. He’s been in here early every single day working out, trying to get himself back. Trying to make himself feel like he did before. I think all the guys on the team recognized that and he’s somebody you honestly enjoy coming to the rink and seeing every day."
Bogosian made a significant impact off the ice in Buffalo. He served as an alternate captain under former coach Phil Housley and was as a mentor to Eichel and defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, who was drafted first overall in 2018.
Since its inception in 2015, Bogosian's nonprofit foundation, the Bogo Bunch, donated $155,000 to Roswell Park, including a $75,000 gift last March. He also worked with the Sabres on a tickets for troops program in which he provided a pair of 100-level seats to a member of the military during every home game.
Though Eichel gave a short response when asked for his reaction to the Sabres' decision, he became emotional when discussing how he was impacted by his friendship with Bogosian.
"Honestly, I do have the organization and the team to thank for the relationship that I was able to create by being here with him," Eichel said. "I think my biggest message to him through this whole thing has been the best part about all of it – obviously to play the game and everything – but at the end of this, whenever the two of us are done playing, he’ll be a lifelong friend of mine. He’s somebody that – there’s not a lot of people in the world that I’m closer with. We have a really special relationship. I don’t want to get emotional here talking about him, but that’s all I’ve got."
Bogosian was unable to surpass the six other defensemen on the Sabres' roster: Dahlin, Rasmus Ristolainen, Brandon Montour, Henri Jokiharju, Jake McCabe and Colin Miller. In addition to opening a roster spot, Botterill also provided himself with salary-cap relief ahead of the trade deadline.
According to CapFriendly.com, Botterill currently has $3.673 million of cap space. In addition to Bogosian, the Sabres have five pending unrestricted free agents who could be traded before the deadline: Zemgus Girgensons, Johan Larsson, Conor Sheary, Jimmy Vesey and Michael Frolik.