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 some of the biggest storylines, news, and rumors about the organization.
Even during the quietest time of the offseason, there is plenty of news surrounding the Sabres as preseason is nearing. As expected, Owen Power announced that he is returning to the University of Michigan for the 2021-22 season and will play with Seattle Kraken prospect Matthew Beniers and New Jersey Devils prospect Luke Hughes. Jack Eichel’s latest tweet on Twitter sparked a vigorous reaction amongst Sabres fans, as the team and his camp work towards a trade. Finally, Rasmus Dahlin still needs to be re-signed, as the restricted free agent (RFA) expects a big payday from the team. Check out our thoughts on these topics below, and let us know what you think in the comment section.
Owen Power Is Returning to the University Of Michigan
Power is the latest first-overall selection to not play in the NHL following his draft season and the first since Erik Johnson in 2006. There have been negative reactions to his decision to return to school, with Dave Feschuk stating that “if I’m the Sabres, I’m humiliated by this'” on TSN 1050. The other side of this debate is that the Sabres have a poor track record of developing their own prospects, such as Alex Nylander, the former eighth-overall pick in 2016. He was traded after three seasons and had not become the player he projected to be when he was drafted. The team is taking a different approach with Power, and is not rushing him into the lineup.
Brandon: This is not a bad decision by Power, and it doesn’t mean that he wasn’t the right selection. The Sabres are in an extremely fragile situation, and they have to be careful in how they manage their top-end prospects. They can’t rush them into the lineup, especially if they’re not going to be competitive. Power will flourish with Michigan and will play alongside Beniers on a team that projects to play in the Frozen Four championships.
Jordan: Power has stated that he wanted a chance to live a normal college lifestyle, which factored into his decision to return to Michigan for another season. I also believe that this is best for his development, as the Sabres are expected to be among the league’s worst teams. They are pursuing Shane Wright, the projected first-overall pick in 2022, and it doesn’t benefit Power to be thrown in a tough situation. Looking at the developmental paths of Quinn Hughes and Cale Makar, who also took one and two years respectively to play in the NCAA after their draft, it looks like it was the correct decision.
Jack Eichel Is Publicly Voicing His Displeasure on Twitter
Eichel has only posted two tweets on his new Twitter account, with his latest showcasing the frustration on his side. There have been few updates in this situation, as general manager (GM) Kevyn Adams made it clear that the Sabres “don’t feel any pressure” to trade him. Eichel’s latest tweet is attempting to add more pressure to the Sabres front office, as his representatives want him to be moved ahead of training camp. It remains to be seen how long this saga will continue, but it seems like it will continue to get ugly.
Brandon: Say what you want about Adams and his decision to wait on moving Eichel, but I believe it says a lot about his composure and his patience as a general manager. He is sticking to his guns, and is not letting outside pressure affect his stance on the situation. He wants to get the equivalent of four first-round picks in return, and is not looking to take less value than that.
Jordan: Based on the statement that Peter Fish, Eichel’s agent, said in an email to John Vogl of The Athletic, they expected a resolution to be reached this offseason. I wouldn’t be surprised if Eichel’s representatives encouraged this type of tweet to pressure the team to move him. It was humorous when I saw this as a person covering the team, as it is unbelievable that this saga has come this far. This situation is reminiscent of Kyrie Irving in the NBA when he stomped on the Boston Celtics logo during a game to voice his displeasure with the organization.
Rasmus Dahlin Still Needs a Contract Extension
Dahlin is an intriguing player to analyze, as many believe he has been disappointed so far in his career. He was touted as being ahead in his development than San Jose Sharks defender Erik Karlsson at the same age. Also, He drew comparisons to Tampa Bay Lightning defender Victor Hedman. He still has been impressive to start his career, posting 44 points in his rookie campaign during the 2018-19 season. However, he still has faults in his game without the puck, and needs to work on his defensive positioning and knowing when to jump into the offensive zone. This makes giving him a long-term contract extension a boom-or-bust decision, as he could blossom into a premier defender into the league or stagnate in his development.
Brandon: Dahlin is a player that I wouldn’t be surprised if the Sabres signed to an eight-year deal. I think he is the only player that the team is comfortable signing to that length. Suppose the deal comes at that term, then I also wouldn’t be surprised if it comes just shy of a $10 million average annual value (AAV). I truly believe that this player will bounce back hugely, as he looked more comfortable playing under Don Granato’s system. He looked like he got his offensive spark back from his rookie season, and was jumping up into the rush instead of just patrolling the blueline.
Jordan: Looking at Dahlin’s direct comparables in Hughes and Miro Heiskanen, it becomes apparent that the Sabres don’t trust him enough to deploy him in a top-pairing role. His time-on-ice (TOI) was 21:36 last season, which ranks lower than Hughes (22:48) and Heiskanen (24:58). Based on this factor, he is likely going to come in at a lower cap hit. Evolving Hockey’s projection estimates signing a six-year deal with an AAV of $6 million. However, John Vogl of The Athletic estimates that an eight-year deal would raise the price to an AAV of $8-8.25 million. The Sabres should lock Dahlin up to a long-term extension, as he is a part of the core moving forward (from “Rasmus Dahlin’s offensive potential will be key in determining his next contract. So how much is he worth?”, The Athletic NHL – 11/06/2021).
Sabres Are Adding to Analytics Department, NHL 22 Cover Athlete & More
Outside of the Sabres news and rumours, in our weekly video, we touched upon Sam Ventura’s tweet, who is the VP of Hockey Research and Strategy for the team, that specified they’re looking for a Data Scientist and Data Engineer. We also talked about Auston Matthews being named the cover athlete for NHL 22 and how the controversial decision sparked a lot of debate.
Have any thoughts on the topics discussed in this column? Share it down below!
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Jordan Jacklin is a freelance writer who covers the Buffalo Sabres here at The Hockey Writers. Jordan is a student at Ryerson’s Sport Media program and uses analytics and video scouting to evaluate your favourite players in the game.