Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) – The Buffalo Sabres announced on Wednesday the re-signing of Kyle Okposo for, at least, one more season.
Okposo said Thursday his career from here on out will be decided on a year-by-year basis. As for this season, he wanted to be part of it again.
The Sabres captain got emotional when talking about getting word from general manager Kevyn Adams that the deal was done.
"My son, Odi, was the first one to find out," said Okposo on Thursday. "When I got the call saying that the deal was done, I was about to put him to bed and I told him that I’m going to come back and play another year. His reaction was worth it. Sometimes I forget how much it means to them."
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Later, when Okposo was out for a walk, his wife and daughter, Elli, pulled up in the car. He says he got a similar reaction from them to the news.
"I told them, and when they were driving away, I heard her scream so loud because they were just so happy," Okposo said. "It’s definitely such a huge factor in my decision making."
Of course, Okposo needed to talk to Adams and his family about the decision. However, he knew he had, at least, another year in him.
"It took a couple of weeks, and I just allowed myself to decompress and emotionally reset," Okposo said.
"I talked to the people around me that are in the inner circle and I knew that my teammates would like me back and that definitely was a factor, but it was just sitting down with my wife and figuring out what the next step would look like and it became pretty evident in those conversations that I wanted to play and I was going to come back."
The Sabres were two points from making the playoffs this past year, and the desire to be in the postseason with Buffalo still burns within the captain.
"There is some unfinished business, for sure," Okposo said. "I’ve been through a lot here, and I just think we’re scratching the surface. I think it’s pretty evident with what’s happened in the playoffs this year that we’re not very far from reaching the top of the mountain. Personally, I would like to be a lot better as well."
I’ve been covering the Sabres for a long time, and Okposo is not only one of the best leaders I’ve seen in Buffalo, he combines that with being one of the best humans I’ve seen here. He says he wants to keep influencing players as captain.
"Knowing I can have an impact on people’s lives in a positive way, I mean forget hockey, just the fact you have a role to be a leader and to be a role model. And to be with these people every day, they’re all such good people," Okposo said. "I think if you can have that impact on somebody’s life, that is so rewarding for me, as a person. I love teaching, or I love coaching these people to be the best people they can be, and I just try to set as good of an example as I can.
"It’s definitely rewarding to see the progress we have made, and as people and as hockey players as well. It definitely shows in the way we play on the ice."
With the season the Sabres just had, this team will be expected to make the playoffs next season. Okposo says the group is well-aware of that.
"We can’t be scared of expectations," he said. "Last year, there were no expectations. But how do you do it with expectations? There’s guys that are getting bigger contracts, there’s guys that are getting noticed nationally, and there’s going to be lofty expectations next year. We can’t run from that.
"You have to set your goal, and should our goal be to make the playoffs? Should our goal be to be two points better than we were this year? No, that’s expected. You set the goal of winning the 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 take every day and you get better. But the time is now, and our window I think is opening. We have to be prepared for that, and everybody has got to come better, starting with me. That’s the expectation that we have to set."
Speaking of young players, the Rochester Americans have revealed that Buffalo's ninth overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, Matt Savoie, will play his first professional game on Thursday in Game 2 of the AHL Eastern Conference Finals against the Hershey Bears.
Rochester won Game 1 of the series on Tuesday, 5-1.
If you’d like to see Savoie’s debut, it starts at 7 p.m. ET on MSG.
In addition, the Sabres have signed the fifth player from their 2022 draft class, inking defenseman Vsevolod Komarov to his rookie contract.