Sabres should target Brandon Pirri

Photo: Jay LaPrete - AP

Photo: Jay LaPrete – AP

Free agency around the National Hockey League has been open for nearly a week, and there have been many notable names that have been claimed off the market.

For the Buffalo Sabres, the team landed one of the best free agents available in Kyle Okposo to add another goal scorer to the top-six forwards on the roster. The Sabres are also in the negotiation stages with free agent forward Jimmy Vesey, whom the team acquired his rights from the Nashville Predators on June 20.

While both Okposo and Vesey would be nice additions to the top-six forward group, the Sabres need to fill out the bottom-six forward group with some size, speed, and good offensive capabilities. Rumblings were that the Sabres were interested in bringing back forward Jamie McGinn, but he signed a three-year deal with the Arizona Coyotes on Friday.

However, one name that is still on the market that could be a nice fit for the Sabres is forward, Brandon Pirri.

The 25-year old forward has bounced around three different organizations over the past six seasons. Pirri was drafted in the second round of the 2009 NHL Draft by the Chicago Blackhawks, and made his NHL debut on October 9, 2010. Pirri would only play 34 more games, score six goals and register 13 points with the Blackhawks over the next three seasons before being traded to the Florida Panthers during the 2013-14 season.

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Photo: Alan Diaz – AP

With Florida, Pirri would excel playing with a deep, young group of players. Pirri would often switch between playing the second and third line, and would see some quality powerplay time on the point. Pirri would go on to score 40 goals and register 62 points in 122 games with the Panthers over parts of three seasons. In the 2014-15 season, Pirri scored a career-high 22 goals in 49 games played.

At the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline, Pirri was traded once again to the Anaheim Ducks, who was looking for some scoring depth heading into the playoffs. However, Pirri would only appear in nine games after suffering an ankle injury before being traded to Anaheim. Pirri would also miss the Ducks’ seven-game series with the Predators with an upper-body injury.

Pirri was set to become a restricted free agent on July 1 if he was sent a qualifying offer from the Ducks. However, Anaheim elected not to qualify Pirri, which made him an unrestricted free agent.

Pirri would be a nice depth player for the Sabres who could be called upon to play on the top-two lines if needed. Pirri is more known for his scoring capabilities with 49 goals in 166 career games. Pirri may only be 6′ 0″ and 183-pounds, but he can play a big, physical game. Pirri is not afraid to take the puck to the net and be a force in the goal-mouth. Pirri is not the greatest of skaters, but he is certainly strong on his feet with and without the puck.

Pirri also has a nice release which makes him such a dangerous threat with the puck on his stick. Where Pirri is most effective is on the powerplay with his booming slap-shot. In Florida, Pirri was the cannon from the point playing on the right side of the blue line. If the Sabres could put Pirri on the point on the powerplay with a guy that can feed him the puck, Buffalo’s powerplay numbers could see an increase.

Pirri is also a dangerous player when he goes one-on-one with the goaltender. Whether it is a penalty shot, breakaway, or the shootout, Pirri can get the job done when given the scoring chance. Pirri is deceptive with the puck, and can use his nice footwork to leave the goaltender guessing his next move.

While Pirri is a great powerplay presence and is a threat offensively, his play at even strength could be better. While the Panthers were not a great possession team last year, Pirri was towards the bottom of possession play for forwards that played at least half the season. Pirri was on the ice for 51 more shot attempts against than shot attempts for, which was not great while averaging just 12:33 of total ice-time at even strength.

Another knock against Pirri is his longevity during a season. This past season saw Pirri play the most games in a season with 61 games (52 with Florida, nine with Anaheim). Pirri has never played more than 70 games in a season, and has just played more the 41 games twice. Pirri has had issues with staying healthy in the past, and has been scratched or benched on some occasions for his poor defensive play. However, his turnover totals did go down this past season, which allowed him to stay in the lineup.

Photo: Alan Diaz - AP

Photo: Alan Diaz – AP

With the Sabres, Pirri would be a nice addition to the third line and could be slotted in at center or the wing. Buffalo’s third line could compose players such as Zemgus Girgensons, Matt Moulson, or even players like Tyler Ennis or possibly Vesey. If the Sabres are unable to land Vesey, the signing of Pirri could be some nice insurance to the goal scoring category.

Pirri still has a lot to give in his game at the age of 25. The Sabres may be the right team for Pirri if he has the right pieces around him. He can bring some goal scoring depth to a Sabres team that has been dry in that department for years, and he can bring even more youth to the Sabres roster.

Pirri may want a deal that is more than just one year, however he may only cost the Sabres anywhere between $1 million to $3 million on the cap which the Sabres can afford. But adding Pirri should be a thought going through the head of general manager, Tim Murray. By adding Pirri, the Sabres would not only stay young, but be a more dangerous team outside of the top-two lines going forward.

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Written by Brayton Wilson

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