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Sabres would be wise to hold their three first-round picks until next summer

The Sabres currently hold three first-round picks for what projects to be a strong 2019 NHL Draft

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NHL: NHL Draft Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Not only did Jason Botterill walk out of the offseason revamping his roster by adding players like Jeff Skinner, Conor Sheary, Rasmus Dahlin, Patrik Berglund, Tage Thompson and Vladimir Sobotka. He also managed to walk out of the summer with three first-round picks, including the Sabres own pick.

The first pick came early in the summer courtesy of the Evander Kane trade that was made at this past trade deadline. By Kane re-signing with the San Jose Sharks, the draft pick compensation changed from a second-round pick to a 2019 first-round pick. Botterill picked up his second 2019 first-round pick via the St. Louis from the Ryan O’Reilly deal.

It’s important to note that both the Sharks and Blues pick carry conditions that could see the picks move into the 2020 NHL Draft. The Sharks pick is lottery protected, meaning they can push the pick back a year if they miss the playoffs. The Blues pick is in a similar situation but is only top 10 protected.

Sitting here today it appears unlikely that both the Sharks and Blues miss the playoffs next season.

Asset Management

With three first-round picks burning a hole in the pocket of the Sabres general manager, the knee-jerk reaction from fans is to flip one or two of them to acquire a talented player. While that’s a logical use of the assets, it may not be the wise move.

I mentioned that the Sabres came out of this summer with three first-round picks, but holding onto those picks came at the cost of surrendering others.

Botterill moved the Sabres 2019 second-round pick, as well as their 2020 third and sixth-round picks to the Carolina Hurricanes as part of the Skinner trade. As part of the Sheary trade, they traded a conditional 2019 fourth-round pick. That selection becomes a third if Sheary scores 20 goals or 40 points next season. It also can flip to a third-round pick if Matt Hunwick is traded prior to the 2019 NHL Draft.

If the Sharks decide to kick the fourth-round pick they sent to the Sabres in the Kane trade into 2020, they’ll have only one pick in rounds two through five. Don’t forget their 2019 fifth-round pick is now in the possession of the Detroit Red Wings from the Scott Wilson deal.

Long story, short with the possibility of only having one pick next year between picks 32 and 155, makes those three first-round picks even more valuable for the Sabres.

Now, the Sabres could recoup some of those picks at the trade deadline next season if things don’t go well in the first half. Marco Scandella, Jason Pominville, and Skinner are a few players that could be intriguing as rental pieces for playoff contenders.

However, sitting here today, we can’t bank on that scenario coming to fruition.

Strong Draft Class

Outside of the Sabres current draft pick count, the 2019 NHL Draft looks like a strong class, especially in the first-round. It’s unlikely they’ll get an opportunity to get a player at the very top of the draft like Jack Hughes, Dylan Cozens, Vasili Podkolzin or Kaapo Kakko.

Nonetheless, the first round looks to be loaded with talents like Philip Broberg, Ryan Suzuki, Arthur Kaliyev and Alex Turcotte to name a few. If the Sabres hang onto the three picks going into next June, they’ll be in the driver’s seat with the potential to explore all avenues to improve the roster.

Botterill has put his club in a very strong spot moving forward. He’s put together one of the best prospect pools in the league, has his team in a good cap situation, greatly improved the roster on paper and is in a strong position with his assets moving forward.

Hanging onto these picks until next summer is the smart move for the Sabres at this time.


Should the Sabres trade any of their first round picks prior to next years draft?

This poll is closed

  • 16%
    Yes, for top-end roster player
    (270 votes)
  • 83%
    No, wait until next summer
    (1333 votes)
1603 votes total Vote Now