Reviewing GM Kevyn Adams’ First Offseason with the Buffalo Sabres

After a 13-year NHL playing career and a successful stint as vice president of business administration for the Buffalo Sabres, Kevyn Adams was named the organization’s general manager on June 16, 2020.

No one could question Adams’ hockey resume. He was a former first-round pick by the Boston Bruins – 25th overall – and a decorated NHL veteran who had been in the game long enough to know a thing or two. However, fans and the media raised an eyebrow when he was hired. Making the jump from a business position to an all-encompassing role as general manager is daunting, but Adams has shown his savvy thus far in his tenure.

Key Additions

Eric Staal

Adams acquired his former teammate from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Marcus Johansson in mid-Sept. While this move was met with resistance, the tone softened as fans understood the bigger picture.

Eric Staal Minnesota Wild
Sabres GM Kevyn Adam’s traded for Eric Staal in the 2020 offseason. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Not only does Staal come cheap – 1 year, $3.25 million – but he also brings a veteran presence to a young team and, most importantly, stability to the center position on the second line.

Tobias Rieder

Rieder signed a one-year contract after scoring 10 points (four goals, six assists) with the Calgary Flames last season. While he is no more than a fourth-line center, he brings penalty-killing prowess that the Sabres desperately need after ranking 30th in the NHL last season. (from ‘Cody Eakin, Tobias Rieder aim to help fix Sabres’ penalty kill,’ Buffalo News, 10/21/2020)

Cody Eakin

Eakins signed a two-year contract after scoring 15 points (5 goals, 10 assists) in time split between the Vegas Golden Knights and Winnipeg Jets last season. A year removed from scoring 22 goals with the Golden Knights, the Sabres hope he regains his scoring touch while providing solid penalty-killing and forechecking on the third line.

Taylor Hall

In a move that shocked the hockey world, Adams signed the top free agent to a 1-year, $8 million contract. The former Hart Trophy winner split time between the New Jersey Devils and Arizona Coyotes last season, scoring 52 points collectively – a down year by his standards.

With Hall as Jack Eichel’s winger, the two should create a synergy that will hopefully result in a playoff berth after a nine-year postseason drought (the longest in the NHL). Not to mention – if things don’t work out, Hall can always be flipped at the trade deadline for assets. This is a very low risk-high reward move in every facet of the term.

Avoiding Arbitration

Adams did a masterful job avoiding arbitration with four RFAs. He finalized a deal with keystone winger, Sam Reinhart – 1 year, $5.2 million – who complements Eichel on the right-wing well.

Additionally, he agreed to deals with:

Linus Ullmark – G – 1 year, $2.6 million

Brandon Montour – D – 1 year, $3.85 million

Victor Olofsson – W – 2 years, $6.1 million

Victor Olofsson Buffalo Sabres
Victor Olofsson, Buffalo Sabres (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

All of these players are important pieces in the Sabres’ puzzle and will play an integral role in their success next season, all while signed to exceptionally economical contracts.

2020 Draft

Despite the Sabres only having five draft picks in the 2020 NHL Draft, Adams and his scouting department did a fantastic job.

The team’s first pick began at eight overall and ended with the 216th pick. Below is further information regarding the new players joining the organization.

1st Round, 8th Overall: Jack Quinn, RW, Ottawa 67’s (OHL)

Quinn is a right wing currently playing for the Ottawa 67’s of the OHL. The 19-year-old Cobden, Ontario native has great size already at 6’1” and 180 pounds.

Jack Quinn Ottawa 67's
Jack Quinn of the Ottawa 67’s (Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

Last season he scored 52 goals in 63 games while adding 37 assists for 89 points. He has a lethal shot and projects to be the natural goal scorer Buffalo has sought for years on the wing.

2nd Round, 34th Overall: John-Jason Peterka, LW, EHC Munchen (DEL)

The Sabres next took Peterka in the early second round. The 18-year-old German left winger is a stout 5’11” and 192 pounds. While he only put up 11 points in 42 games in the German league last season, he was playing against men in a professional setting, not the junior ranks. Look for his game to keep developing overseas for the next few years.

5th Round, 131st Overall: Matteo Constantini, C, Buffalo Jr. Sabres (OJHL)

Buffalo’s fifth round selection was a homegrown talent in Matteo Constantini. He put up 68 points last season with the Buffalo Jr. Sabres of the OJHL. He has a nice scoring touch and will be taking the jump competition-wise next season as he’s projected to play in the BCHL for the Penticton Vees. Additionally, he’s already committed to the University of North Dakota for the 2021-22 season, so it will be a few years until we Constantini make any organizational impact.

7th Round, 193rd Overall: Albert Lyckasen, D, HC Vita Hasten

After a slew of offensive picks, the Sabres finally drafted a defenseman in the seventh round – choosing right-handed defenseman Albert Lyckasen. The 5’11’, 197-pound defenseman put up 36 points last season in Sweden’s top junior league. He’ll play and develop for HC Vita Hasten of Sweden’s second league before making the jump to North America.

7th Round, 216th Overall: Jakub Konecny, F, HC Sparta Praha U20

Last but not least is Jakub Konecny. Another seventh rounder from the Czech Republic. The native of Brno, Czech Republic is slight at 5’11” and 156 pounds but is slippery. He’s currently playing for HC Sparta Praha of the Czech junior league where he has 13 points in nine games.

Questionable

Adams might have missed when he offered three-year deals to Tage Thompson (AAV, $1.4 million) and Zemgus Girgensons (AAV, $2.2 million). While Thompson has upside and may outperform this contract, we seem to talk about his possible breakout every season. Girgensons doesn’t provide any meaningful statistics

or metrics with no upside in sight. While it’s not impossible for these two to live up to their contracts, it seems unlikely at this point.

Final Verdict

Apart from Thompson and Girgensons, Adams has made quite the impression in his short time as the Sabres’ general manager. Conducting a solid draft and signing Hall was paramount to a franchise in peril and showed Adams’ commitment to improving the roster, not only to fans but to disgruntled superstar, Jack Eichel, as well.


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