We all love a good +1 at a wedding. There are many key indicators for a solid wedding date; can hold their own at the open bar, engaging social skills for chit chat with various in-laws, and a carefully curated ensemble, just to name a few. But the pies de resistance? The crown jewel of top-tier-wedding-date attributes? Dance moves. Ya gotta be able to cut a rug as a +1. And while it isn’t necessarily wedding season yet, I think Buffalo Sabres GM Kevyn Adams is already practicing his moves for the upcoming draft.
So, wait a tick…why are we talking about Kevyn Adams practicing the Electric Slide and the Dougie in his living room? Because he has 4 picks in the first 60 of the 2023 draft with an already loaded prospect pipeline and a Playoff-caliber roster. The folks in this forum know all too well that the Sabres have a pending wave of young talent moving closer and closer to the NHL level. Some of them are a few years off, Ostland, Rosen, and Neuchev for example. But some of them are already chomping at the bit to break through; Kulich, Johnson, Savoie, Levi, and possibly Lindgren (in my opinion, he has an accelerated development path).
Obviously, this is a good problem to have, and when you really dig into the Sabres prospect pipeline you can see these “cohorts” of players. Considering the fact that the Sabres are routinely placed in the top-5 (they are currently 6th, according to Scott Wheeler of The Athletic) of national prospect rankings, you have to wonder if too much of a good thing can actually becomea problem. At this point it is not, but when you visualize the existing roster while considering these cohorts, the math just doesn’t add up in terms of roster spots. I mean, why enjoy the moment when you can worry and fuss about even good problems that may possibly maybe perhaps present themselves down the line? Because we are Buffalo Sabres fans, and that’s what we do. Serenity now!
Ok let’s get into it. This edition of GMFAD is brought to you by coveted cap space and desirable draft dividends, as we are going to take a look at a path less travelled in the NHL. Rarely do you have a situation where you have double the picks in the top 60, an already top-notch prospect pool, oodles of cap space, and an impressive existing NHL roster that is on the precipice of a Playoff berth. It’s the Gordie Howe hat trick of things you should be jealous of. Envy us now or forever hold your peace, as the honeymoon wagon is about to set sail here in little Buffalo.
As we have passed the mid-way mark of this season, Sabres fans can bask in the following glories:
- The first line is consistently producing at an elite level
- The second line is young (I would guess they are the youngest 2nd line in the NHL?) but productive and developing impressive chemistry
- The bottom 6 is humming, Jost/Mittsy/Goalofsson are workers who have talent and scoring prowess, while Mr. Krebs is providing the youth movement down the middle in between Ox and Z on the 4th line
- The Sabres have an impressive top-4 d-corps, as Joker seems to have turned a corner and may be a lock for that 4thspot, for now..
- UPL is proving himself and hitting that goalie development path like a pro, he IS the starting goaltender, and for good reason.
Those are a few current truths that we have to work with, and with those lovely realities, comes one reality check that we will use to ruin our good time and argue about:
- The bottom d pairing is open season, as Bryson, Lyubushkin, and Clague have played musical chairs through injuries and healthy scratches – nothing seems to be clicking there, and a true upgrade on the back end seems necessary
- With question marks surrounding Ryan Johnson, Buffalo needs to do some work here and build some depth at the RHD position
Now, how can we talk this to death? I’ll tell you how we can talk this to death:
Kevyn Adams is going to trade up in this draft and select adefenseman to shore up the back end of Buffalo’s prospect pipeline. This rarely happens in the NHL, but times they are a-changin’, so cue up the wild trade scenarios, here we go!
Scenario 1: Buffalo sends three (3) 2023 2nd Round picks to St. Louis in exchange for their 2023 1st Round (unprotected) pick.
I have St Louis landing the 9th overall selection here.
Two teams in unique situations make a straight-up swap in picksto improve their trajectories.
Adams takes a shot here and uses his draft capital to find the player he has been looking for on the back end. Buffalo selects RHD David Reinbacher (Kloten, SWISS) with the 9th overallselection. A 6’2” right-shot defenseman who is highly mobile and boasts a solid two-way game, Reinbacher is an Austrian born player who has excellent gap control and the ability to dampen threats off the rush and down low. He has a top-4 ceiling and would round out an absolutely incredible defensive corps in Buffalo. Buffalo has Johnson and Lindgren in the system; however, Johnson is a bit of a question mark and Lindgren may need some time to cook (accelerated development path be damned). This leaves Buffalo with no 2023 2nd round picks, but two 2023 1st round picks. Not bad.
St. Louis knows it’s not going to win the lottery, and while they are disappointing this season, they do not expect to finish nearthe bottom 5. The Blues do not have a 2nd round pick in this draft, and opt into future-proofing their cap and prospect pool by trading back here. They want quantity AND quality in this deep draft and will spread the wealth accordingly with players like ROR and Tarasenko most likely on their way out. They have a bit of an aging roster (Leddy, Krug, Schenn, Saad), with some nice front-end talent in Thomas, Kyrou, and Buchnevich, with solid prospects in Snuggerud and Bolduc. Now is the time to grab as many players from this rich 2023 draft as possible, as the collateral damage chickens from their recent Cup run have come home to roost.
Scenario 2: Buffalo sends two 2023 2nd round picks (Philadelphia & Buffalo) and the rights to Erik Portillo to Montreal in exchange for 2023 1st round pick (Florida)
I have Florida landing the 14th overall selection here.
Montreal is armed with a full clip of 2023 picks, including two 1st rounders, one 2nd rounder, one 3rd rounder, and three 4throunders. They selected 1st overall at the 2022 draft with the big Slovak in Slafkovsky, then grabbed winger Filip Mesar at 26thoverall, followed by Owen Beck and Lane Hutson at 33 and 62 overall, respectively. Bonjour, that’s a bon haul ya got there. So, the rebuild is in full swing, and while the Habs have an impressive prospect pool, they need to shore up some areas of need. Suzuki, Dach, Caufield, Guhle, Xhekaj, and Harris can be added to the above-mentioned names of impressive young talent in this organization. The remaining roster is “meh” and currently occupied by names that have a negative surplus value and will eventually be replaced (we know what that looks like). The gaping maw at goaltender left by Carey Price is an area of need, and while Cayden Primeau has shown flashes, he probably is not going be the answer in net. In short, Montreal can afford to slide back half a dozen slots while adding another 2nd rounder and a legit goalie prospect to the pipeline.
Buffalo wants to move up to the top 1/3rd of this draft by not finishing in the bottom 1/3rd of the standings. I mean, c’mon we are super awesome at drafting in the top 10. With this move, Buffalo gets rid of a fussy goalie prospect and moves up to grab a defenseman. At this position in the draft, Buffalo scoops up Dmitri Simashev, a 6’4” Russian who can get nifty with the puck, make a great outlet pass, and play very solid defense. He is young (Feb 2005), but his size and puck skills make him an appealing get for any d-corps.
Scenario 3: Buffalo trades TWO (2) 2023 2nd Round picks (Buffalo & Philly), a 2024 3rd Round pick, and Jacob Bryson to Tampa Bay for Erik Cernak.
Tampa Bay does not have a 2023 1st OR 2nd round pick, as they traded them both away. They are desperate to get involved in the first 2 rounds of this draft due to the talent, but also the cap crunch they are dealing with, with a negative $7+ MM projected cap situation pending. Tampa has some players coming off the books as UFAs this year, along with a few new deals kicking in – including Cernak’s 8-year, $5.2MM AAV deal. The Lightning have to make a move here, and while Cernak is a coveted d-man, they are unwilling to part with one of Sergachev or future Hall of Famer Victor Hedman. I do feel that they will resign Killorn and Namestnikov (UFAs after this season), and they of course have Cirelli’s new $6.2MM AAV deal kicking in at the end of this year, so they will keep that roster mostly intact, but pay for it in the process. Two high 2nd round picks in this draft will really help this team gain some ground that they absolutely expect to lose in the division, and Bryson will provide some depth on the blue line in the meantime.
Buffalo is more than willing to part with draft assets in order to acquire Cernak. He is a 2nd pair d-man who plays a punishing game, while demonstrating proficiency in the key areas of skating, shooting, and passing. He will provide a Samuelsson-like presence on the back end, giving this Sabres team a playoff edge that they absolutely need.
The Wild Child Scenario 4: Philadelphia trades Travis Konecny to the Calgary Flames - Calgary sends their 2023 1stround pick to Buffalo - Buffalo trades two 2023 2nd round picks (Philly & Vegas) and their 2024 3rd round pick to Philadelphia.
I have Calgary landing the 16th overall selection here.
Buffalo doubles down on their fleecing of Philadelphia in the Ristolainen trade by handing Philly their own 2023 2nd round pick back as part of a package to move up into the 1st round. Philly gets to select twice in the second round while keeping their own 1st, and unloads Konecny, who is having a breakout year, to the Flames.
I think Calgary is going to try and continue to build by adding a top-line playmaker to the wing. They have a nice distribution of talent throughout their roster in Kadri, Huberdeau, Toffoli, and Mangiapane up front, with Hanafin, Andersson, Kylington,Tanev, and Zadorov on the back end. They have one of the best goalie prospects in Dustin Wolf, so no need to make any moves there. Calgary just needs to add more talent up front, and Konecny is the antidote to their mediocrity. He would add an instant punch to their top six, while allowing for a younger player like Dube to hone his craft in the middle (he is currently on the top line).
Buffalo gets another shot in the 1st round here, and wants to target one of Reinbacher or Simashev to shore up that RHD position in the system. Everybody wins here, and while 3-team trades are traditionally quite rare, the NHL is entering a new era of parody, chaos, and much-needed entertainment.
I hope you folks enjoyed this edition of GMFAD. Yes, most of this is a bit nutty, but I do believe we will see some rather unorthodox moves this offseason. I think Adams will remain quiet at the trade deadline, but the pending logjam in this organization is for real, and he knows he must do something in order to maintain balance.