After the NHL Draft, free agency and other offseason moves, NHL.com is examining where each team stands in preparation for the 2024-25 regular season, which starts Oct. 4. Today, the Buffalo Sabres:

2023-24 season: 39-37-6, sixth in Atlantic Division; did not qualify for Stanley Cup Playoffs

Key arrivals

Ryan McLeod, F: The Sabres acquired the 24-year-old in a trade from the Edmonton Oilers on July 5 for forward prospect Matt Savoie. McLeod, who provides depth at center, had an NHL career-high 30 points (12 goals, 18 assists) in 81 regular-season games and four goals in 24 Stanley Cup Playoff games. … Jason Zucker, F: Zucker signed a one-year contract July 1 and has the versatility to play up and down the lineup. The 32-year-old had 32 points (14 goals, 18 assists) in 69 games with the Arizona Coyotes and Nashville Predators and had a goal and three points in six playoff games with Nashville. … Sam Lafferty, F: The 29-year-old signed a two-year contract July 1 and adds speed and physicality to the bottom six. He had 24 points (13 goals, 11 assists) in 79 games and no points in 11 playoff games for the Vancouver Canucks. … Beck Malenstyn, F: The Sabres acquired the 26-year-old in a trade with the Washington Capitals on June 29. Malenstyn had 21 points (six goals, 15 assists) in 81 games last season. … Nicolas Aube-Kubel, F: Signed a one-year contract July 1. The 28-year-old had 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) in 60 games with the Capitals last season. … James Reimer, G: Signed a one-year contract July 1 and could battle Devon Levi for the backup spot behind Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. The 36-year-old was 11-8-2 with a 3.11 goals-against average and .904 save percentage and two shutouts in 25 games (20 starts) for the Detroit Red Wings last season. … Lindy Ruff, coach: The Sabres hired the 64-year-old April 22 to replace Don Granato, who was fired April 16. Ruff, the winningest coach in Buffalo history who led the team to its last playoff appearance in 2011, was fired by the New Jersey Devils on March 4 in his fourth season. He is 864-679-153 with 78 ties in 24 NHL seasons as coach of the Sabres, Devils, and Dallas Stars.

The NHL Tonight crew analyze the Sabres' offseason

Key departures

Jeff Skinner, F: Signed a one-year contract with the Edmonton Oilers on July 1 after Buffalo bought out the final three years of his contract. He had 46 points (24 goals, 22 assists) in 74 games last season. … Zemgus Girgensons, F: Signed a three-year contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning on July 1. Girgensons had 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in 63 games last season. … Victor Olofsson, F: Signed a one-year contract with the Vegas Golden Knights on July 2. He had 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) in 51 games last season. … Eric Robinson, F: Signed a one-year contract with the Carolina Hurricanes on July 1. He had nine points (two goals, seven assists) in 40 games with the Sabres after he was acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets. … Tyson Jost, F: Signed a one-year contract with the Hurricanes on July 1. He had six points (three goals, three assists) in 43 games last season. … Don Granato, coach: Granato was 122-125-27 over three and a half seasons and helped several Sabres players reach career-highs in 2022-23, when Buffalo finished one point out of the second wild card from the Eastern Conference.

On the cusp

Jiri Kulich, F: Kulich, who turned 20 on April 14, led Rochester of the American Hockey League with 27 goals and finished third on the team with 45 points in 57 games and had two assists in five Calder Cup Playoff games. He played in the 2024 AHL All-Star Classic and was named to the AHL Top Prospects Team for a second consecutive season. Kulich, a first-round pick (No. 28) by Buffalo in the 2022 NHL Draft, made his NHL debut as a 19-year-old on Nov. 25 and did not have a point. … Isak Rosen, F: The 21-year-old tied for the Rochester team lead with 50 points (20 goals, 30 assists) in 67 games and had two goals in five playoff games. Selected at No. 14 by the Sabres in the 2021 draft, he made his NHL debut Nov. 25; he played seven games and did not have a point. … Lukas Rousek, F: The 25-year-old had 41 points (10 goals, 31 assists) in 51 games with Rochester and led the team with six points, all assists, in five playoff games. He had two assists in 15 games with the Sabres last season.

What they still need

They could potentially add a top-six winger but believe they can rebound offensively internally. The Sabres are banking on bounce-back seasons from Tage Thompson, Alex Tuch, and Dylan Cozens after each dropped off following career seasons in 2022-23 and for young forwards JJ Peterka, Jack Quinn and Zach Benson to take the next step.

They said it

“I’m not concerned about our talent or skill level or our ability to score goals. I believe we have that in our room. We needed to be a team that the roster’s rounded out. … But honestly, we have talent on that roster. We need to play sharper. We need to play more consistent. We need to be more competitive, and I’m not concerned on the offensive part.” -- general manager Kevyn Adams

Fantasy focus

This upcoming season provides a breakout opportunity for 22-year-old forward JJ Peterka. who had 50 points (28 goals, 22 assists) in 82 games last season. Peterka has high goal-scoring ability specifically if he plays on their top line with Tage Thompson, who had 56 points (29 goals, 27 assists) in 71 games last season after reaching a career high in 2022-23 with 94 points (47 goals, 47 assists) in 78 games. Peterka should be considered as a 30-goal scorer option in season-long fantasy leagues and be prioritized in dynasty/ keeper leagues. -- Anna Dua

Projected lineup

JJ Peterka -- Tage Thompson -- Alex Tuch

Jason Zucker -- Dylan Cozens -- Jack Quinn

Zach Benson -- Ryan McLeod -- Sam Lafferty

Beck Malenstyn -- Peyton Krebs -- Jordan Greenway

Mattias Samuelsson -- Rasmus Dahlin

Bowen Byram -- Owen Power

Henri Jokiharju -- Connor Clifton

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen

Devon Levi

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