Sabres Scoop: Skinner, Eichel, Eklund & the NHL Draft

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 are joined by The Charging Buffalo’s Joe Marino, and the trio sounds off on some of the biggest storylines, news, and rumors about the organization.

The Buffalo Sabres have submitted their protection list for the Seattle Expansion Draft as they prepare to lose a player to the team. On top of preparing for that scenario, the NHL draft is nearing, and speculation surrounding the first-overall pick is at an all-time high. It seems as if Owen Power will be selected first overall, according to Bob McKenzie’s updated draft rankings. It is important to note that this is not McKenzie’s rankings, but 10 NHL scouts that he surveys, and the picks are averaged out.

Check out our thoughts on these topics below, and let us know what you think in the comment section.

Jeff Skinner Waives His No-Move Clause to Be Exposed in Seattle Expansion Draft

On July 14, Skinner agreed to waive his no-movement clause (NMC) to be exposed in the Seattle Expansion Draft, per his agent Don Meehan. This allowed the team to use their extra protection spot on Rasmus Asplund, who was likely on his way out. It was a kind gesture of Skinner, as he knew the Kraken would not select him anyways. His contract lasts six more seasons, with an average annual value (AAV) of $9 million. It appears that Seattle will likely select William Borgen as their pick, as he is young and has NHL potential.

Buffalo Sabres Henri Jokiharju Casey Mittelstadt Jeff Skinner Rasmus Dahlin
Henri Jokiharju, Casey Mittelstadt, Jeff Skinner and Rasmus Dahlin, Buffalo Sabres (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Joe: I’m surprised that the team asked him to waive the NMC, but they made the right choice. Good for Skinner by obliging to the Sabres’ request. They can protect all three forwards on the bubble, including Tage Thompson, Anders Bjork, and Asplund. Luckily, they didn’t waste a protection spot on Zemgus Girgensons, who didn’t play in 2020-21 due to a season-ending hamstring injury.

Jordan: After seeing a player like Milan Lucic waive his NMC for the Calgary Flames, I’m glad that Skinner did the same for Buffalo. The fans will appreciate this move, and they will remember this kind gesture. He will be a member of this team for a long time, so let’s hope that he can turn his career around. He only scored 14 points in 53 games in 2020-21, and he is capable of playing better than his production suggests.

Related: THW Ultimate Mock Expansion Draft: Buffalo Sabres Moves

Brandon: This is a very team-friendly move that I was surprised to see. I was the Sabres general manager in the The Hockey Writers‘ mock expansion draft and had Skinner on my protection list. I didn’t even consider it, and the fact that general manager Kevyn Adams approached him should be praised. 

Minnesota Wild Making a Play for Jack Eichel

After the Zack Parise and Ryan Suter buyouts, the Minnesota Wild have closed their contending window. The team will have a dead cap hit of $12.7 million in 2022-23 and an identical $14.7 million in 2023-24 and 2024-25. They will have $10.3 million in cap hit savings next season and can afford to add a superstar in Jack Eichel. They have one season to contend for the Stanley Cup. Darren Dreger reported on Insider Trading that he believes the Wild will make a trade offer on Eichel. They will not overpay, but they are going to mix themselves into the fold.

Jack Eichel Buffalo Sabres
Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Joe: It appears that one of Matt Boldy or Marco Rossi would be the centerpiece of the trade, as they are the Wild’s top-two prospects in their organization. If they could get both, that would be great. I believe Rossi is comparable to Trevor Zegras, who the Sabres would target in a trade with the Anaheim Ducks. My personal 2020 Draft rankings had Rossi as the third-best prospect available, and he ended up going ninth. Boldy is an elite prospect as well, and he had a solid season with Boston College. Kirill Kaprizov would be a fun idea, but it is unlikely that Minnesota parts ways with him after his electrifying rookie season. In a potential trade, the Sabres are going to get prospects and picks, not roster players.

Jordan: The Sabres adding Kaprizov is a fun idea, but the Wild would acquire Eichel to play on his line. In Minnesota, the team’s first-line center is currently Joel Eriksson Ek, who is among the best defensive forwards in the league. They need to find a superstar that can push Kaprizov’s game to the next level. I believe adding Rossi or Boldy would be excellent in a trade package. As prospects, the gap between them is not that large, but Rossi still has the higher ceiling of the two. The Sabres should make this possible deal work in the coming weeks.

Related: Sabres Get a Bonus Protection Spot With Skinner Waiving His NMC

Brandon: The Sabres have to be asking for one of Boldy or Rossi in a trade package. As well, if I were Adams, I would be kicking tires on their goaltender Kaapo Kähkönen. They need to acquire a goalie in the offseason; that is a bona fide starter. A potential Eichel trade is the best pathway of finding that player for the team’s long-term future. It may be too much to ask Minnesota to send Rossi and Kähkönen in return, but that should be the starting price.

Second-Round Prospects That the Sabres Should Target

Many fans are on the William Eklund hype train, believing he should be selected with the first-overall pick. He ranks as the best prospect available, according to Patrick Bacon’s NHL Equivalency model. This public model incorporates previous seasons from NHL draft picks and compares them to current players in various leagues. It also needs to be remembered that six rounds are remaining in the draft. With the Sabres having two second-round picks, Joe gave some insight on who the team should select in those spots.

Kevyn Adams Buffalo Sabres
General Manager Kevyn Adams of the Buffalo Sabres, 2020 NHL Draft (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

Joe: With Arizona forfeiting the 11th pick in this draft, the Sabres are selecting 32nd instead of 33rd. That essentially makes it a first-round selection. There will be many quality players who slide to the second round in such a unique draft year. I believe that Aatu Räty will be available, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the team selects him. The center had an abysmal season and did not make Finland’s U20 World Juniors team. He has minimal offensive upside, but I see him being a dominant penalty killer at the NHL level. He is going to be a project for the team that drafts him.

Samu Tuomala is an undersized right-winger that is not the most excellent skater, but is already a prolific goal scorer. He is comparable to Arthur Kaliyev as a player who went in the second round in 2019 to the Los Angeles Kings. Sebastian Cossa is a Canadian goaltender available, and the team could take a flyer on him. Many mock drafts have him projected to be a first-round pick, so it would be seen as a steal if he falls. There are many options for the team to consider.

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

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