NASHVILLE – Given their success last season and the talent they boast, you wonder if the Buffalo Sabres might take a big swing during the NHL Draft.
General manager Kevyn Adams has methodically rebuilt his team, refusing to take shortcuts that might jeopardize sustained long-term success. But they’re finally knocking on the door, having come within one win of earning that elusive playoff berth.
Adams possesses a stable of assets, including the 13th pick tonight during the first round of the NHL Draft at Bridgestone Arena.
The Sabres appear to be very close to becoming a team to reckon with. So would Adams part with, say, that top pick and a coveted prospect for a defenseman or goalie that might get them over the hump?
“I really love to get to know the people in our organization – the players, who they are, what they’re about, what makes them tick,” Adams said Tuesday in the Renaissance Nashville Hotel. “Now, that helps because you understand the psychology of it, but at the end of the day, I always methodically go back to, what’s going to help our team get better and what’s going to help us move forward and get us closer to trying to win a Stanley Cup?
“I feel like I’m a nice person, but I want to win and I want to win really bad and I want to win as much as you can possibly want that. So will I make tough decisions? Of course. That’s what we have to do.”
Adams has never had a summer like this in his three years as GM.
Yes, in his first offseason, he made moves for the present, most notably signing prized free agent Taylor Hall, who ended up being a bust as the team imploded.
But in 2020, Adams was trying to improve a team that he inherited and push it into postseason. He has torn down the Sabres and rebuilt them the way he wanted.
Now, they’ve finally exited rebuild mode. No one knows how he’ll operate.
Adams said again Tuesday he’s having conversations with his counterparts this offseason about potential deals he wouldn’t have in years past.
Clearly, he wants to add a top-four defenseman, and he’s examining the trade market and free agents and weighing the pros and cons of the acquisition costs. Free agency opens Saturday.
“We’re continuing to look at both and see what makes sense for us to help our team get better,” he said. “But … we also aren’t going to do something desperation or think that we have to do something. It’s only going to be done if it’s right.”
Adams acknowledged “there’s a lot going on” in the market.
“That’s why I use color-coded pens and notebooks to keep everything straight,” he said. “… Every minute that you get close to the draft or the first round of the draft, things get even more intense because a lot of conversations are based around potentially what can be going on at the draft.”
The perception of the Sabres, who own an NHL-record 12-year playoff drought, has changed around the league.
“We have a long way to go in terms of the steps that we need to become an elite team in this league,” Adams said. “But I do believe that people are seeing what we have built and thinking that we’re on the right path. And when you talk to agents … (they’re) talking about players that want to be here and believe in what we’re doing. It feels like we’re heading in the right direction.”
The fact the Sabres own the 13th selection illustrates that. Incredibly, it marks the first time since 2012, when they drafted center Mikhail Grigorenko 12th, they haven’t had a top-10 pick.
The Sabres haven’t had the 13th pick since they drafted forward Zach Kassian in 2009.
In addition to their first-rounder, they have seven other picks Thursday: the 39th, 45th, 86th, 109th, 141st, 173rd and 205th.