For the Buffalo Sabres, the 2021 offseason should help define the near and far-term plans for the franchise. After struggling with consistency on the ice for years and dealing with turmoil off it, the Sabres seemed to hit the proverbial wall in 2020-21. By the end of the season, they had the worst record in the NHL and more questions than answers as an organization.
However, some positives started after the season ended. First off, the Sabres won the draft lottery, which eventually allowed them to draft a potential top-pairing defenseman in Owen Power.
Before that pick occurred, however, Sabres general manager (GM) Kevyn Adams made his first major trade of the offseason, shipping embattled defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen to the Philadelphia Flyers for Robert Hagg, a 2021 first-round pick and a 2023 second-round pick.
This trade will likely be the start of a larger roster shakedown by Adams, who also has stars Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel potentially on the trade block. While either player could be moved at any moment, it appears that Adams is going to take his time when it comes to dealing Eichel, as said by Elliotte Friedman during Round 1 of the NHL Draft.
“On Eichel, what I can tell you in just making calls around today, the ask is still very high, and that there were some teams who just weren’t willing to pay what Buffalo was asking.”
So, while it appears that teams are interested in acquiring Eichel, Adams is waiting to get a perfect trade in order to move on from his star forward.
Sabres Being Patient With Eichel Trade
When it comes to dealing a superstar like Eichel, it makes sense that the Sabres are chosing to take their time instead of rushing a deal. For Buffalo, you don’t want to move on from a player you selected second-overall in 2015 and signed to a long-term deal in 2018. You only make that trade if you get exactly what you want back, whether it seems realistic or not.
Related: 2021 NHL Draft: Live Tracker
If you’re Adams, you can look towards how the Colorado Avalnche traded their own embattled superstar forward back in 2017. While Avalanche GM Joe Sakic was questioned for holding onto Matt Duchene through the start of the season despite a trade appearing to be neccisary, he still got premium value for this prime asset 14 games into the season.
By waiting to get full value on Duchene, the Avanlance may have lost a top-end player, but they got back a package of picks and prospects that helped set the future of the franchise for years to come.
While the Eichel situation is different from the Duchene deal, there’s still important lessons to be learned from it. When trading these superstar players that multiple teams want, you don’t have to rush a move in order to hit an arbitrary date on the calender. Teams will always want to add elite talent to their roster, especially if they beleive they are one piece away from being a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.
All it takes is one team to think that Eichel is worth Adams’ high price for a trade to happen. That can happen tomorrow, in training camp or even a month into the season, but this patience can help set the Sabres on a new and brighter path towards the future.
Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He has written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. While he is happy to talk about just about anything from cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.