Welcome to the first 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.
The Sabres will be one of the busiest teams heading into the Seattle Expansion Draft and 2021 NHL Entry Draft, as general manager Kevyn Adams’ checklist is long and challenging. The team needs to hire a new head coach and find suitable trade partners for stars Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart that will fetch a worthwhile return, among other things. Check out our thoughts on these topics below, and let us know what you think in the comments section.
Finding the Perfect Suitor for Eichel
The Eichel trade rumors have ramped up in recent weeks, and NHL analysts Elliotte Friedman and Darren Dreger have predicted a trade could take place before the end of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Some of the hysteria has died down since last week, but it still seems that Adams could pull the trigger on a trade before the expansion draft, which would impact the Sabres’ protection list in a major way. Some of the primary trade destinations for Eichel are reportedly the Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, among others.
Brandon: When it comes to trading Eichel, there are very few scenarios in which the Sabres come out winners. Adams will likely be after four or five different pieces in return, with a high first-round pick, top-tier prospect, and current roster player at the top of his wish list. His best shot at securing that package would be a trade with the Ducks. Between Trevor Zegras, Jamie Drysdale, and their third-overall pick in this draft, there is a lot to bargain with there.
Jordan: The Sabres should be targeting the Kings as a trade partner. LA has the most valuable asset in Quinton Byfield, who is a first-line center in the making. Eichel is young enough to be the main contributor playing next to Alex Turcotte and Arthur Kaliyev – there is a fit there.
Shipping Out Reinhart for the Right Bargain
Eichel isn’t the only star player who’s as good as gone; Reinhart is also expected to be moved before the expansion draft. He will not fetch as big of a return as Eichel, but Adams could realistically demand a first-round pick and current roster player for him or substitute the latter for another top-tier prospect. Reinhart led the Sabres in goals and points this season, which put him on pace to surpass his career-best numbers in a regular 82-game schedule. His potential suitors have been rumored to be out west, with the Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, and even the Columbus Blue Jackets mentioned in reports.
Brandon: When Reinhart signed a one-year contract last offseason, we knew his 2020-21 season would have a lot of say in whether or not he wanted to come back, and given that the Sabres finished dead last for the fourth time in eight seasons, I don’t blame him for wanting out. He is still a restricted free agent (RFA), so the Sabres have some leverage in moving him, but I think he will end with the Canucks in his home province of British Columbia that fetches the Sabres at least a first-round pick and a prospect.
Jordan: Based on all of the media reports, it seems like Reinhart and the Sabres will be parting ways. He doesn’t want to stay for another rebuild and wants to play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It sounds like he will end up on either the Blue Jackets or Canucks. The Sabres are looking for a second top-10 pick and could use Reinhart to acquire that asset.
Sabres After a Second Top-10 Pick – Do We Trust Them?
Adams and the rest of the Sabres front office recently made the bold claim that they value this draft more than any other NHL team since they “know the prospect pool pretty well.” Like every other team, Buffalo has had to rely primarily on video scouting, but when your scouting staff comprises all of five people, you probably get used to relying on video scouting, anyway. As Jordan mentioned above, rumor has it that Adams is after another top-10 pick in the 2021 Draft, and will look to use Eichel or Reinhart to acquire the pick.
Brandon: I do not trust Adams’ scouting or drafting abilities, nor do I trust the skeleton scouting crew that ownership was comfortable with deploying ahead of a pivotal offseason. The Sabres have the first-overall pick for the second time in three seasons, and I don’t trust this group to make the right choice, less still if they manage to get a second top-10 pick. Until I am proven wrong, these are the assumptions I have to go with.
Jordan: The Sabres should not be trusted with their player evaluation, and this goes back to when they selected Jack Quinn in the 2020 NHL Draft. He was picked over Marco Rossi and Cole Perfetti, who were higher in the draft rankings at the time, and are more likely to become NHL stars. If they can’t get that pick right, how will they select the correct players in an unprecedented draft such as this one? The scouting department now has seven personnel but operated with four to five throughout the regular season. They weren’t even scouting every league and were primarily relying on video scouting, so the odds aren’t high that they’ll select the best players available.
Who Leaves Before the Expansion & Entry Drafts?
Eichel and Reinhart aren’t the only players who could be with other teams by the expansion and entry drafts. Defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen has been rumored to be moved, and unless goalie Linus Ullmark signs a contract extension in the next few weeks, Adams might be forced to move him, as well. It would behoove Adams to package some players for a true No. 1 goalie, as well as some NHL-ready forwards in return, so as to put the Sabres in the best spot to compete next season.
Brandon: Ristolainen could be packaged with either Eichel or Reinhart to sweeten a deal for whichever team acquires one of the two, which would allow Adams to demand more in return. Ristolainen’s trade value is still high, and he could help bring vital pieces back to the club – either packaged with another player or even traded on his own. If the Sabres can’t find a way to protect Rasmus Asplund, I could see him being packaged in a deal or sent somewhere else for a draft pick as well.
Jordan: It’s been reported that the New Jersey Devils are interested in Ristolainen, and there is a fit there. He can play a reduced role on their second pairing and can play on the power play with Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, and Jesper Bratt. He would be poised to have a bounce-back season and could play without the pressure top-pairing minutes. A package for a second-round pick and a middling prospect seems attainable, and it appears very likely the Sabres will receive a similar return for him as they did for Taylor Hall.
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Brandon is a Buffalo Sabres & San Jose Sharks Contributor for THW and Co-Host of THW’s ‘Sabres Scoop,’ who received his Master of Science in Sport Administration from Canisius College in Buffalo, NY, and founded his website, Seltytending, in 2017. He is an avid hockey writer and podcaster with prior work experience in the OJHL, NWHL, and NCAA. Twitter: @BSalts15