The Buffalo Sabres have brought back Casey Fitzgerald, bringing back the young defenseman on a two-year contract. The deal will carry an average annual value of $750K. CapFriendly reports that the deal will come with a $125K AHL salary in 2021-22 and a $300K AHL salary in 2022-23.
Fitzgerald, 24, was a third-round pick of the Sabres back in 2016, but still hasn’t made his debut at the NHL level. Part of that is because he’s been unable to stay healthy, with just 51 AHL contests under his belt to this point, but part is also that he hasn’t been able to find the same kind of offensive consistency that he showed in his early years with Boston College. In fact, Fitzgerald’s scoring numbers declined in each of his four seasons at BC as he transitioned into a pure shutdown option–even winning Hockey East’s Best Defensive Defenseman award in 2018.
The problem is that at the NHL level, it’s hard to be a defensive option standing just 5’11”. More and more teams are looking for size and length on the blueline, something that Fitzgerald is just never going to be able to bring no matter how hard he works.
Perhaps that’s why the deal has such a strong minor league salary. Fitzgerald is likely headed back to the Rochester Americans where he can really help the minor league club find success.