Kevyn Adams should have a busy two weeks ahead. ©2024, Micheline Veluvolu

As Sabres enter new phase, GM Kevyn Adams open to trading first-round pick

BUFFALO – This is new for Kevyn Adams. For three years, the general manager methodically constructed the Sabres, refusing to stray from his plan.

That meant using every first-round pick – he’s had a whopping six since 2021 – and resisting any quick fixes that could hurt his blueprint for sustained success.

But the Sabres have graduated to what Adams called “another phase.” Expectations have been raised.

They possess a talented roster and a strong prospect pool. Their NHL-record 13-year playoff drought hangs over the franchise like a black cloud. The disappointment of their 84-point finish in 2023-24 has only increased the urgency to win.

Adams knows he must strengthen his team immediately. So this offseason, he’s open to anything, including trading the Sabres’ first-round pick at the NHL Draft on June 28.

“I’ve told every team in the league that we are wide open to considering moving pick 11,” Adams said Thursday in KeyBank Center during media availability to discuss the draft. “We’re wide open to consider anything, to be honest with you.”

That might mean moving up in the first round, never an easy task, or trading down. Adams said he has told teams he’s interested in both. He believes the Sabres have the assets to move up.

If the Sabres use their first pick, Adams said they’ll be excited about it.

“But it won’t be from lack of effort of seeing of what else was out there to do,” he said. “… This year in particular is the first time I’d say that we’re the most comfortable with kind of where we’ve built our prospect pool that if the right opportunity’s there, that we’ll be ready to do it for.”

On Thursday, Adams sounded energized and excited for what could transpire this summer. On Wednesday, a day off in the Stanley Cup final, teams made three trades, perhaps a precursor to a busy two weeks with the draft and free agency coming up.

“Busiest time of the year,” he said. “It’s awesome. I love this time of year.”

Adams loves it, in part, because of the daily conversations he has with his counterparts in other cities.

“Every single day, on the phone from morning until night,” he said. “This is the time of year where the phone’s next to me, even late it rings. I’ve gotten in the habit with our really nice warm weather of going on walks late, talking on the phone. If you see me on the bike path in Clarence at 10 o’clock at night, then I’m working. And that’s awesome.”

So, if the Sabres keep the 11th pick, what could be available to them? Jerry Forton, who earlier this month was promoted from director of amateur scouting to assistant GM, said there’s consensus around the league on the first four to six players in the draft.

“This draft might be a little bit unique after that point when you get to six to 15,” Forton said. “I think there’s a really wide spectrum of players and probably a lot of difference of opinions across the league on that group of players.

“So in past drafts, you could kind of tick off the top 10 or 11 and maybe only one of those players would be available to you at 11, 12, 13. It wouldn’t shock me this year if there could be two or three players that we have in our top seven or eight that are available at 11.”

Adams said given the uncertainty of where the Sabres could pick early, he has challenged Forton and the team’s scouts, telling them they must “get the list right.”

“Right meaning what we truly believe because there’s a lot of variables,” he said. “Do we move up or down? All those types of things. So that’s why instead of saying, ‘OK, here’s two, three players we think are probably in that range of where we’re gonna get, let’s make sure we’re really getting this order of this list accurate.’”

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