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Adieu, Kyle: Okposo signs with Buffalo Sabres, ending 8-year Islanders career

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We had a year to prepare, but seeing #21 depart still feels weird.

Storming down someone else's wing.
Storming down someone else's wing.
Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Free agent right wing Kyle Okposo has signed a reported seven-year contract worth $6 million per season with the Buffalo Sabres, ending a New York Islanders career that spanned more than eight seasons, 529 regular season games, and 139 goals, plus seven goals and 15 points in 24 playoff games.

After the NHL's free-agent discussion period this week, Okposo reportedly whittled down his list last night on the eve of the signing period, according to Arthur Staple of Newsday, who reported as early as last summer that the player and the team that drafted him were nowhere close to the same page on a new contract.

Even before the clock hit noon, it appeared certain Okposo would head to the Sabres, fellow free agent Frans NIelsen would land with the Wings, while the Islanders would nab winger Andrew Ladd.

Islanders fans watched Okposo grow along with and define the rest of the post-MIlbury rebuild, from a kid who left the University of Minnesota mid-season, to a brief spell in the AHL, an even briefer nine-game season-ending intro to the NHL, and soon one of the team's most important three forwards through the length of his eight full NHL seasons.

As Dan Saraceni wrote in our farewell tribute:

He’s not the first to be priced off the Islanders, but unlike, say, Matt Moulson or P.A. Parenteau, Okposo was drafted, developed and hammered into an NHL player all while wearing Islanders colors.

[...]

But watching Okposo grow as a player has been one of the best things about following the Islanders’ current incarnation. And in a lot of way, his career arc has mirrored his team's trajectory.

Now, for the first time since he was drafted in 2006, those trajectories part.