The Buffalo Sabres have made an interesting move at the goaltender position with the signing of Dustin Tokarski on a two-year contract with an average annual value of $725,000.
Tokarski has played the majority of his 11-year professional career in the American Hockey League. The two-time Calder Cup champion and former AHL All-Star has played just 34 NHL games with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Montreal Canadiens, and Anaheim Ducks.
Assuming that Linus Ullmark and Carter Hutton will go ahead as the two net minders in the NHL, Tokarski's inclusion in the minor league system could bump prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen back to the Cincinnati Cyclones in the ECHL.
Putting Luukkonen back in Cincinnati would be a good thing for his development, giving him an opportunity to play a larger number of games. Last season in his first season with the Cyclones, the 21-year-old was an ECHL All-Star with a 12-7-3 record, a 2.24 goals-against average, a .912 save percentage and three shutouts.
The ECHL announced that their season will begin on Jan. 21, 2021.
With Luukkonen in Cincinnati, the Rochester Americans would likely see a goaltending tandem of Tokarski and fourth-year pro Jonas Johansson.
Tokarski had a solid season for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins last year with a 9-5-2 record in 18 games played, a 1.97 goals-against average, a .924 save percentage and one shutout.
However, Johansson earned himself the starting role in Rochester last season with a 14-4-3 record in 22 games played, a 2.28 goals-against average, a .921 save percentage and two shutouts. He finished the 2019-20 season with the sixth-best goals-against average and seventh-best save percentage in the AHL, and earned himself his first nod as an AHL All-Star.
The signing of Tokarski could also put to bed any thought of the Sabres burying Carter Hutton in the minors for the final year of his contract.
However, if the Sabres think they can upgrade from Hutton in goal in Buffalo, they can save $1.05 million by burying him in the minors. The only complication is they'll likely have to find another AHL team for him to play for in the 2020-21 season, similar to what the Sabres did with forward Matt Moulson in 2017.