BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Kyle Okposo came here in the summer of 2016 to help a rebuilding franchise return to the playoffs. At the completion of Okposo’s seven-year contract, the Sabres remain mired in the the longest postseason absence in NHL history.
Recommitting to Buffalo on a one-year pact this week, Okposo explained his thirst to end the city’s drought.
“There’s definitely some unfinished business,” the Sabres captain said Thursday. “I think we are just scratching the surface.”
Okposo, 35, is returning to the Sabres at a $2.5 million salary — a pay cut of roughly 60% less from the average annual value of his previous deal — with a $500,000 incentive if Buffalo wins the Stanley Cup in Okposo’s 17th NHL season.
“That’s something I set out to do when I had my introductory press conference,” in 2016, Okposo said. “I did not know how much work went into it. But I think we are extremely close.”
Buffalo came within one victory of supplanting the Florida Panthers for final Eastern Conference playoff spot. Okposo pointed at the Panthers run to the Stanley Cup finals as proof of how close to the Sabres are to contention.
“It’s pretty evident by what has happened in the playoffs this year that we are not very far from the top of the mountain,” Okposo said.
On the cusp of claiming a wild-card with the NHL’s youngest lineup this past season, Buffalo will be expected the leap into the 2024 playoff picture. The question now is how prepared the Sabres are for a postseason run, and how close they are to Cup contention.
“We can’t be scared of the expectations,” Okposo said.
“There’s going to be expectations next year,” the captain continued. “Last year, there was no expectations. And everybody’s writing rosy articles, this group is a good team, it’s becoming a good team. And that’s great. But how you do that with expectations?
“There’s guys that are starting to get bigger contracts. There’s guys that are starting to get noticed nationally. There’s going to be lofty expectations next year. And I think that we can’t run from that.
“You have to set your goal. And should or goal be to make the playoffs? And should our goal be to be two points better than we were this year? No, let’s accept it. Let’s accept it now.
“And so you set teh goal of winning a Stanley Cup. And then you don’t touch that, and you don’t let that weight you down at all from the day to day of the season. You set that goal, and you know that it’s there. And then you take it a day at a time, and you get better.”
Jonah Bronstein joined the WIVB squad in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. The Buffalonian has covered the Bills, Sabres, Bandits, Bisons, colleges, high schools and other notable sporting events in Western New York since 2005, for publications including The Associated Press, The Buffalo News, and Niagara Gazette. Read more of his work here.