Sabres Scoop: Draft Craziness & Free Agent Frenzy

Welcome to another edition of Sabres Scoop, The Hockey Writers’ weekly column discussing all things Buffalo Sabres. This week, ‘Sabres Scoop’ co-hosts Jordan Jacklin and Brandon Seltenrich sound off on the craziness of the 2021 NHL Draft, Free Agent Frenzy, and some of the other biggest storylines, news, and rumors about the organization.

With the Seattle Expansion Draft, the 2021 NHL Draft, and day one of NHL Free Agency in the rearview mirror, Sabres fans can stop biting their nails in anticipation of the next big news story, at least for now. Since we last talked, general manager Kevyn Adams pulled the trigger and traded two of the Sabres’ core players, Rasmus Ristolainen and Sam Reinhart, and fetched a haul of picks and prospects in return. Buffalo also drafted 11 players and had a quiet start to the free agency period. Check out our thoughts on these topics below, and let us know what you think in the comments section.

Sabres Draft Owen Power With First-Overall Pick

The 2021 NHL Draft was held on July 23, and all the pressure was on Adams to make the right choice with the first-overall pick, and he selected the consensus No. 1 prospect: University of Michigan defenseman Owen Power. Power will likely return to the NCAA for one more season of college hockey but will become a valuable addition to the Sabres’ blue line in the future.

Owen Power, Michigan Wolverines
Owen Power, the first-overall pick of the Buffalo Sabres, with the Michigan Wolverines (Photo credit to Michigan Photography)

Jordan: Power is going to be a top-pairing defender in the league for a long time. A defense core structured around Rasmus Dahlin and Power is going to be amazing, and just look at all the complementary pieces they have, like Henri Jokiharju, and prospects coming up soon, like Ryan Johnson. Power should make his NHL two years from now, and I think we’re going to see a really good player when he does.

Brandon: It looks like Power will return to Michigan for one more season, but even so, the Sabres have a really deep defensive prospect pool, and he joins that, so there’s a lot to be excited about. While I think that the organization could have used a center with high potential, like Matthew Beniers, to eventually fill the holes left by (likely) Eichel and Reinhart, I like Power as a player and think he was a great choice.

Sabres Trade Ristolainen to the Flyers

The Sabres finally pulled the trigger and traded longtime d-man Rasmus Ristolainen, sending the 2013 first-round pick to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Robert Hagg, the 14th-overall pick in this draft, and a second-round pick in the 2022 Draft. They used this year’s pick to select Isak Rosen, one of the highest-rated European forward prospects available as ranked by NHL Central Scouting.

Jordan: Good on Adams for making this trade. I’m very high on Rosen. The Sabres also got a second-round pick in next year’s draft, which is projected to be one of the deepest drafts in a decade, so that’s great. I was very shocked when I saw this deal, and I wasn’t expecting it at all, so really good job by management.

Brandon: The 14th-overall pick is not shabby, so to get that, and a defenseman like Hagg who has played in the NHL and is suited to a bottom-pairing, plus a second-round pick next year, is a hefty return for Ristolainen. I was taken aback when I saw this, and I really like the return that Adams got here. You’ve got to be happy for Ristolainen, too, and a change of scenery might be just what he needs. I’m looking forward to seeing how this works out for both teams.

Did Adams Get Enough In Return For Reinhart?

Adams wasn’t done after the Ristolainen trade and dealt restricted free agent (RFA) Sam Reinhart to the Florida Panthers in exchange for goaltending prospect Devon Levi and the Panthers’ 2022 first-round pick. Reinhart was selected second overall by the Sabres in the 2014 Draft, and his name came up often in rumors since the end of the 2020-21 regular season. He will need to sign a new contract with the Panthers, who now hold his negotiating rights.

Jordan: A lot of Sabres fans were upset with the return on this deal, and I don’t think it was because of the first-round pick, but Levi, the goalie prospect, who despite a really great run with Canada in the World Junior Championship, only projects to be a backup at the NHL level. If that’s the case, I think Reinhart was worth more than that, but considering the market for RFA forwards this season, this was a good trade for Adams.

Brandon: Considering where the Panthers are expected to finish next season, that first-round pick is not going to be a very high pick, but it’s still in the first round. Getting picks in these next two drafts is going to be crucial, and Levi is no slouch as a goaltending prospect either, I really like him and have so ever since his impressive run with Canada in the last World Juniors tournament.

Eichel Trade Destinations, NHL Free Agency & More

Outside of the Sabres news and rumors, in our weekly video below, we touched on the ideal trade destinations for Jack Eichel and gave our predictions on where the Sabres captain will end up when he is inevitably traded this offseason. We also talked about the biggest moves on the first day of free agency, including the best and worst contracts handed out as well as the winners and losers. 

Have any thoughts on the topics discussed in this column? Share it down below!

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