BUFFALO, N.Y. — Kevyn Adams had a dialog with Sabres captain Kyle Okposo when the workforce bought again from the All-Star break. Buffalo’s normal supervisor checks in with Okposo repeatedly, however at this specific check-in, he requested Okposo whether or not he thought the workforce was getting pushed round.
Adams didn’t expose the main points of Okposo’s reply, however within the week main as much as the NHL commerce deadline, his actions painted a transparent image. The Sabres made two additions this week, first including defenseman Riley Stillman for ahead prospect Josh Bloom. Stillman led the Sabres with six hits in his debut Thursday evening. Then, proper earlier than the deadline, Adams traded a second-round choose in 2023 and a 2024 fifth-round choose to the Minnesota Wild for 6-foot-6 ahead Jordan Greenway.
“What I noticed wasn’t that we were getting pushed around but that teams were certainly trying to bully us,” Adams mentioned. “I don’t think there’s any way around it when you watch our games, the number of teams especially going after our top players. Game after game, targeting them, it was clear.”
Adams mentioned he preferred the way in which the gamers on the roster stood up for themselves, competed and didn’t again down one inch. But he knew he might add to the roster to help these gamers. He wasn’t keen on buying a rental within the closing yr of his contract. He needed gamers who might develop together with the remainder of Buffalo’s core. Adams additionally didn’t need to take away from the present roster, as a result of he thinks this group has earned the possibility to compete for the playoffs.
Greenway has 75 hits in 45 video games at five-on-five this season, based on Natural Stat Trick. That’s greater than any participant on the Sabres roster. He had at the least 83 hits at five-on-five in every of the three seasons previous this one as effectively, together with a whopping 145 a yr in the past.
“As I watched him very closely over the last however many weeks I think we have a player here that we don’t have currently, a player that adds physicality, grit, is a presence. He can hold onto pucks,” Adams mentioned. “He is talented where he can make plays and get up and down the ice, but with that frame and his ability to hang onto pucks and have a physical presence, I think it’s an important addition for us. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while and was hoping to add.”
In Greenway, Adams bought a participant who’s below contract at $3 million per yr for the following two seasons, so time period isn’t a problem. He’s underperformed this season with solely two objectives and 5 assists, however he spent the early a part of the season preventing by way of a setback after offseason shoulder surgical procedure. He additionally fell out of favor in Minnesota in January after he overslept, missed a pre-game assembly and missed a sport in opposition to St. Louis within the second half of a back-to-back.
But the Sabres have distinctive perception into each the participant and particular person they’re getting in Greenway. Don Granato coached Greenway when he was on the United States National Team Development Program. Tage Thompson was on that workforce as effectively. Granato was adamant that there’s extra to Greenway’s sport than he’s proven in Minnesota lately.
“He was pounding the table on this one, saying, ‘I know there is more to this player and I believe that if we acquire him and we get him in our environment … I believe we’re getting a really important hockey player,’” Adams mentioned.
Adams’ religion and perception in Granato is a giant motive why he made this transfer. He’s seen what Granato did to assist unlock Thompson’s sport. He’s seen Rasmus Dahlin take his sport to a different degree below Granato. So when Adams sees an underperforming participant like Greenway and a coach who’s keen about him, that’s a straightforward promote.
The identical might be mentioned for a lesser addition like Stillman. Earlier this season, the Sabres plucked Tyson Jost off waivers and he’s was a dependable bottom-six ahead. If they get an identical return on Stillman, they’ll be happy.
Either manner, although, Adams needed to make the Sabres harder to play in opposition to. He believes these additions, notably Greenway, will try this down the stretch and into the longer term.
“There’s certain players that when they’re on the ice, everyone’s aware and I put Jordan in that category,” Adams mentioned. “He can skate and he can make plays, but he’s got the presence physically that people are aware when he’s on the ice … And ultimately, when we get in the playoffs, whether that’s this year, or in the coming years, a player like that, especially in a playoff series where you know, game in and game out, they become valuable. So that’s part of the thought process. But you know, you need talent to go with all of that and that’s one of the things that I really liked about Jordan. He can make plays and he’s a talented hockey player, too.”
Adams was inspired on the deadline by the quantity of curiosity groups across the league had in Buffalo’s prospects. That wasn’t the case when he took over just a few years in the past. But he additionally made it clear that two of these prospects, Matt Savoie and Jiri Kulich, have been off-limits in commerce discussions.
“They were nonstarters in conversations,” Adams mentioned.
That is a part of what made the Jakob Chychrun commerce talks with the Arizona Coyotes difficult. The Coyotes ended up buying and selling Chychrun to the Senators for a first-round choose and two second-round picks. Adams mentioned the identical supply wasn’t on the desk for the Sabres, as a result of the Coyotes have been extra keen on their prospects than their picks. The worth wasn’t the identical, and the Sabres didn’t need to overextend.
“You have to be careful whether it’s, you know, as a fan, or anyone just saying, ‘Well, if this team traded for this, then we should have done it,’” Adams mentioned. “That’s not the way it typically works. And of course in the conversations there is but there is a line that we would draw in a situation like that, as we got to that spot that we are not going over. We’re not in a situation where we feel that we had our backs against the wall, desperate. I am thrilled to death that there’s an absolute arms race going on in the East over the last couple of weeks, and there’s high prices, and I get it. But I think that we wanted to be really careful with that, too.”
Sabres commerce Erik Portillo
Adams confirmed that goalie prospect Erik Portillo advised the workforce he didn’t need to play in Buffalo. He needed to be in a special market and communicated that he didn’t see a path to the NHL. Adams was completely satisfied to recoup the asset for a participant who was drafted earlier than he took over.
“We want players that want to be here and players that want to compete every day to be National Hockey League players,” Adams mentioned. “So it was really important to try to find a way to recoup that asset, which fortunately we were able to do. It’s a great deal for LA, they’re getting a really talented goalie who’s a very good prospect.”
Right earlier than the deadline, the Sabres traded Rasmus Asplund to the Nashville Predators in alternate for a seventh-round choose. Asplund has performed in simply 27 video games this season and didn’t have a path to getting within the lineup extra persistently. Adams felt like he needed to do proper by Asplund whereas additionally getting worth in return.
Asplund had a powerful season for the Sabres final season and was a popular particular person within the constructing. That remained true even whereas he was out of the lineup and when he was saying his goodbyes on Friday.
“He was just really appreciative,” Adams mentioned. “He said, ‘I can’t wait to see you guys in the playoffs, it’s going to be fun to watch.’ So it just gives you a little insight into what a special person it is.”
Where the Sabres stand
A couple of hours earlier than the deadline, Granato met with reporters and reiterated that this wasn’t the time for the Sabres to be impatient due to the expansion they’ve seen internally. Adams feels the identical manner in regards to the largest enchancment from this group coming internally over the following 12-24 months. That made the Sabres’ deadline strikes appear tame in comparison with the way in which the Bruins, Leafs, Lightning and different contenders within the Eastern Conference handled the previous few weeks.
“We’re building this team for now without sacrificing the future,” Granato mentioned. “I watch teams in our conference especially, sacrificing a lot of future. They’re in a win now.”
Granato thinks that flurry of exercise was as a result of, in contrast to the previous few years, there isn’t a runaway favourite for the Stanley Cup within the convention. The Sabres know that window isn’t open for them the identical manner it’s for the highest groups within the east, in order that they have been completely satisfied to let different groups take the larger swings.
“We’re in a great position as a franchise because we’re seeing the growth every day and the potential every day,” Granato mentioned. “For us, we’re in a different category and a good category, different than other teams who are worried about their window.”
(Photo: Matt Blewett / USA TODAY Sports)