Kevyn Adams has begun making significant moves and hirings after he was named as the Buffalo Sabres’ new general manager following the organization’s firings of 22 management and scouting staff members in June. In this edition of Sabres News and Rumors, I’ll be discussing the possibility that Brandon Montour has played his final game for Buffalo, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen’s loan to Finland, the hiring of new Rochester Americans head coach Seth Appert, and the unfortunate passing of Sabres legend Dale Hawerchuk after his battle with cancer.
Montour May Have Played His Last Game in a Sabres Uniform
It appears as though the Sabres may be ready to give up on Brandon Montour after just 74 games played with the organization. The 26-year-old was previously traded to Buffalo from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for a 2019 first-round pick (Brayden Tracey) and defensive prospect Brendan Guhle. Montour is scheduled to become a restricted free agent this offseason when his current two-year contract with an $3,387,500 average annual value expires.
The Sabres will also have the option to qualify and trade the defenseman. If the team cannot work out a qualifying offer and find a suitable trade partner, they will be left with nothing to show for their 2019 first-round pick and Guhle. Montour recorded 18 points (5 goals, 13 assists) in 54 games played this season.
Luukkonen Loaned to TPS in Finland
The Sabres have loaned Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen to TPS of the Finnish Liiga. Deemed as Buffalo’s goalie of the future, the 21-year-old Finnish goaltending prospect split time between the AHL’s Rochester Americans and ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones this season. He is expected to return to North America to suit up for the Americans when the AHL returns to play.
Luukkonen recorded a 0.912 save percentage (SV%) and 2.24 goals against average (GAA) in 23 games played with the Cyclones this season. After getting the call-up to the AHL, he recorded a 0.874 SV% and 3.15 GAA in 10 games played. The Sabres’ 2017 second-round pick (54th overall) will most likely need to develop in the AHL for another few years before he is ready to make the jump to the NHL, but it is widely speculated that he will someday make a name for himself as one of the best Sabres goaltenders in history.
Sabres Hire Appert as Americans Head Coach
Seth Appert became the 33rd head coach in Americans’ history on Tuesday. Sabres general manager Adams praised the Americans’ newest head coach, saying, “Seth has a proven track record of developing talent at various levels and we are looking forward to him being the next head coach of the Rochester Americans.”
Appert joins the Americans with an outstanding list of coaching accomplishments, leading the U.S. Under-18 Men’s National Team to a gold medal at the Five Nations Tournament in 2017-18 and silver medal at the 2018 IIHF Under-18 Men’s World Championship. In addition, he helped lead Team USA to a gold medal at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship and served as an assistant coach for the U.S. Men’s National Team at the 2017 IIHF Men’s World Championship.
Hawerchuk Passes Away After Battle With Cancer
Dale Hawerchuk’s eldest son, Eric Hawerchuk, announced on Twitter that his father had passed away at the age of 57 after an “incredibly brave and difficult battle with cancer” on Tuesday. The Sabres legend was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2001 and coached the Barrie Colts in the OHL from 2010 until his cancer diagnosis in 2019, making him the longest-serving head coach in team history.
Hawerchuk played for the Sabres from 1990 to 1995 and tallied 385 points (110 goals, 275 assists) in 342 games with the organization. Before his death, he created Hawerchuk Strong, an initiative to support important causes close to him and the Hawerchuk family. He will be greatly missed and fondly remembered by the hockey world.
What’s Next for the Sabres?
Adams has some major decisions to make with contract extensions due for team stars Rasmus Dahlin and Sam Reinhart. Dahlin has one year remaining on his entry-level contract and can sign an extension this offseason. If Reinhart hasn’t signed an extension prior to free agency, he will become a restricted free agent.
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In addition to Dahlin and Reinhart, the Sabres will also look to extend the contracts of their soon-to-be restricted free agents, including Victor Olofsson, Linus Ullmark, Dominik Kahun, and more. The next couple of months will be crucial for building the foundation of a strong Sabres roster for the future.