Vinnie Hinostroza is still in limbo.
Unclaimed on waivers Thursday, the 28-year-old winger was assigned to the Rochester Americans to make room for rookie winger JJ Peterka, who was loaned to the Sabres' American Hockey League affiliate prior to the morning skate.
It's unclear what's next for Hinostroza. It seems unlikely an established NHLer would actually join Rochester. He can re-join the Sabres as soon as Friday.
Hinostroza can be useful to another team, but he was scratched in 17 of the last 22 games because the Sabres have been healthy up front. He returned to the Sabres on a one-year, $1.7 million contract in July knowing his spot in the lineup would likely depend on the development of Peterka and Jack Quinn.
The progress of Quinn and Peterka, combined with the addition of Tyson Jost on waivers, forced Hinostroza to wait for an injury to occur.
People are also reading…
"It’s never an easy thing when you see a friend, a teammate, somebody you spend every day with over the past number of years go on waivers, but it’s part of the business," said Sabres captain Kyle Okposo. "And us as a group, it’s a difficult thing, it is, for sure, and I hope he finds an opportunity. But this group’s going to have to learn to deal with these things.
"Down the road, there’s going to be some big pieces that move out of here at some point, and there’s going to be some big pieces that come in. And guys are going to have to learn to be professionals, come to the rink and learn how to do their jobs. And it’s not an easy thing, because like I talked about a few weeks ago, there’s humans underneath all the equipment, and it is difficult when you see somebody that you care about get waived or get traded. But we got to come in and do our jobs."
Sabres coach Don Granato inserted Hinostroza into the lineup three times last week to give Quinn and Peterka what he called a "developmental opportunity" to watch games from a different perspective. Hinostroza made an immediate impact against Philadelphia with three shots on goal, but his last appearance with Buffalo was 8:41 of ice time in a win at Nashville.
General Manager Kevyn Adams called teams around the NHL over the past week to try to find Hinostroza an opportunity. When a trade wasn't possible, and the Sabres needed to clear a roster spot to carry three goalies, the club chose to waive the veteran winger. Peterka was loaned to Rochester in a paper move Thursday morning to clear a spot for goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, who will start against the Islanders.
Hinostroza will be remembered by Sabres fans for his impact during the 2021-22 season. He was a key player for them during the final two months of the season, including the Heritage Classic when he had two goals and an assist in a win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Beloved by teammates for his sense of humor and work ethic, Hinostroza will be missed in Buffalo. However, the Sabres have NHL-ready depth in Rochester with forwards Brandon Biro, Brett Murray and Linus Weissbach.