NHL Rumors: Sabres, DeBrincat, AHL Expansion, More

To kick off October, today’s NHL rumors rundown includes the Buffalo Sabres potentially having interest in Daniel Sprong and a look into Alex DeBrincat’s next contract. Plus, expansion is occurring in the American Hockey League (AHL) to coincide with the NHL’s own expansion.

Related: NHL Rumors: Rask, Penguins, Waivers, More

Could the Sabres Have Interest in Sprong?

On Monday, the Anaheim Ducks placed forward Daniel Sprong on waivers in an effort to send him down to the AHL. The Buffalo News’ Mike Harrington thinks Sprong could be a good fit for the Sabres and that they should place a claim on him. It’s easy to see why a team like the Sabres, who are hoping to get back to relevance, would have interest in Sprong.

He dominated the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), both before and after being drafted, with 261 points in 199 games, and has even excelled in the AHL (65 points in 65 games). However, he hasn’t lived up to expectations in the NHL (28 points in 89 games). Yet despite his struggles, the skills that led to the Pittsburgh Penguins drafting him 46th overall in 2015 remain. It’s what led the Ducks to deal promising defense prospect Marcus Pettersson for him in 2018-19. Considering the Sabres tied for 21st in goals scored last season, claiming Sprong without having to give up assets makes sense.

Daniel Sprong
Daniel Sprong with the Charlottetown Islanders of the QMJHL (Photo: Darrell Theriault/Charlottetown Islanders)

Another reason the team could have interest in Sprong is that Sabres general manager Jason Botterill was a member of the Penguins front office when they drafted Sprong. So there’s certainly familiarity with both Sprong’s on-ice abilities and personality.

… has a relationship with both Sabres General Manager Jason Botterill and assistant GM Randy Sexton from their days in Pittsburgh.

Mike Harrington

The Sabres are currently three players above the 23-man NHL roster, but, as Harrington points out, Matt Hunwick, Zach Bogosian, and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen are all likely to be placed on some form of injured reserve to start the season. If necessary, they can also assign Henri Jokiharju to the AHL without placing him on waivers in order to create a roster spot.

What Will DeBrincat’s Next Contract Look Like?

Yesterday, NBC Sports Chicago’s Charlie Roumeliotis speculated on what Alex DeBrincat’s next contract could look like with the Chicago Blackhawks. DeBrincat, who will be on the last year of his entry-level contract in 2019-20, will be a restricted free agent (RFA) at season’s end. He’ll be in a similar situation that Patrik Laine, Mitch Marner, Brayden Point, and Mikko Rantanen were this offseason. And, considering is coming off 28- and 41-goal seasons as a rookie and second-year NHLer, DeBrincat will get paid; the questions are how much and for how long on his next contract?

Alex DeBrincat Chicago Blackhawks
Alex DeBrincat, Chicago Blackhawks, Nov. 9, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Roumeliotis comments that it’s virtually impossible to find a direct comparison to this offseason’s RFAs. He also thinks that DeBrincat isn’t in the category of Marner or Rantanen but could be in the range of Laine. Both are goal-scorers rather than playmakers, although DeBrincat has been the more consistent scorer.

The difference between DeBrincat and Marner/Rantanen is that the latter are playmakers while the former is more of a pure goal scorer. While DeBrincat may not be a perennial 90-plus point player, he will score 35-40 every year and that’s certainly nothing to sneeze at.

Charlie Roumeliotis

Ultimately, Roumeliotis believes that DeBrincat’s third season, assuming he doesn’t sign an extension mid-season, will be the final factor in his contract. Both Marner and Rantanen drastically increased their production in their third seasons, and if DeBrincat does the same, he’ll be due a hefty payday. He concludes by saying that DeBrincat’s contract is sure to start at $7 million, but that it could approach the $8-9 million range depending on term. Luckily for the Blackhawks, they’ll have plenty of cap space to get a deal done, although they also have re-sign Dylan Strome.

Related: Blackhawks’ DeBrincat & Strome: The Duo of the Future

The AHL Is Heading to Palm Springs

The AHL recently announced that the league was expanding to Palm Springs, California and will begin playing in the 2021-22 season. The franchise will be the AHL’s 32nd and will be the affiliate of the NHL’s Seattle franchise. Considering that the AHL is the NHL’s top development league, this is the next step in Seattle becoming the NHL’s 32nd team.

The AHL team will play in a brand new, 10,000-seat arena in downtown Palm Springs. The location of the team is important as it continues a trend in which franchise’s have their AHL affiliate in relatively close proximity to the NHL team.

Sabres Make Interim Coaching Changes

In other Sabres news, the team is making an interim change to their coaching staff as assistant coach Don Granato has been hospitalized with a severe case of pneumonia. According to the team’s press release, he will be taking a medical leave of absence. In his absence, Chris Taylor, head coach of their AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans, will join the Sabres coaching staff. Considering that the Sabres have a new head coach in Ralph Krueger, it’s unknown how much Granato’s absence will affect the team’s performance.