BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Ryan Johnson and Erik Portillo could be a big part of the Sabres’ future a few years down the road, or they could completely be gone from the franchise in a year. This isn’t because of their talent, but purely because of whether they want to join them after this upcoming season.
The Sabres only hold the rights to both Johnson and Portillo for one more year. If they don’t sign over the next year, they become free agents. Still, they got their opportunity to skate with the other prospects in the Sabres organization on Wednesday as part of the team’s development camp.
Johnson and Portillo both addressed the media after the first day of camp, and didn’t shut the door on possibly signing with the Sabres. Johnson is weighing whether to sign with the Sabres or go back to the University of Minnesota for his senior year.
“There’s a lot of factors that go into it,” Johnson said. “Honestly I think both ways there’s benefits to both. Buffalo’s a great organization and right now I’ve been evaluating the camp and evaluating the staff, too. It’s a really tough decision for me and I want to make sure I do it with confidence.”
Johnson said if he does go back to Minnesota, that doesn’t shut the door on him potentially playing in the Sabres organization. He also isn’t worrying too much about potential free agency.
“That’s something I don’t think about,” Johnson said. “Others have brought that up to me. I don’t really think about that too much. My goal is to sign eventually.”
Portillo appears to be set on going to Michigan for his senior year, but like Johnson, it doesn’t mean he won’t join the Sabres next year.
“It’s been a lot of talk about it obviously in the media and stuff, but I’m just trying to do my best and I know I have to deliver really well at Michigan next year and that’s all I can do right now,” Portillo said.
The goaltender also added that the goalie competition with guys like Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Devon Levi, Topias Leinonen and others won’t impact his decision. He said there’s competition at any organization.
It appears Portillo and Johnson are going to wait to make a final decision, but it’s not a foregone conclusion that they’ll hit free agency after their senior seasons.