BUFFALO – Following Friday’s trade deadline, Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams was talking about his excitement for the stretch run when, suddenly, he became choked up.
For the first time in years, the Sabres are playing meaningful late-season games as they fight to end an NHL-record playoff drought. In the hours before the deadline, Adams beefed up his team by trading for hulking winger Jordan Greenway. On Monday, he acquired defenseman Riley Stillman.
In adding to the Sabres, Adams stayed true to his master plan. He did not sacrifice any prized prospects or other notable assets for short-term success. Greenway and Stillman are both young (26 and 24, respectively) and have term left on their contracts.
They fit in with the team Adams has assembled. His moves this week – or the ones he did not make – illustrate how much he believes in his players.
When he addressed them Friday morning, he told them the Sabres’ growth over the next year or two “is going to come internally.”
“Honestly, it gets emotional sometimes because I know what it takes to win in this league and I know we have it,” Adams said in KeyBank Bank Center, where the Sabres host the Tampa Bay Lightning this afternoon. “Now I just want to believe in these guys and let them go do it. That’s exciting.”
He added: “I feel we moved our franchise forward today without compromising on things we were not willing to do.”
Adams said the Sabres, who stood four points out of the Eastern Conference’s last wild card spot entering Friday’s schedule, “love each other in that room.”
“They love playing here,” he said. “So, that is, like, so, so awesome to see. What I want to see our guys do is just go and just be them. Play fearlessly, earn everything they’re going to get.”
To acquire the 6-foot-6, 231-pound Greenway, the Sabres traded the Minnesota Wild a second-round draft pick this year (acquired from the Vegas Golden Knights in the Jack Eichel trade) and a fifth-rounder in 2024.
“Talented power forward at a great age with experience,” Adams said. “… As I watched him very closely over the last number of weeks, I just 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. He’s talented where he can make plays and get up and down the ice, but also that frame and his ability to hang onto pucks and just have a physical presence.”
Sabres coach Don Granato knows Greenway well, having had him in junior hockey at the U.S. National Team Development Program.
Greenway has endured a rough season, compiling just two goals and seven points in 45 games. Overall, he has registered 38 goals and 119 points in 316 career NHL games over the last six seasons.
Granato wanted him again so badly that Adams said “he was pounding the table on this one and saying, ‘I know that there is more to this player and I believe that if we acquire him and get him into our environment.’”
“(Granato) goes, ‘I believe we’re getting a really important hockey player,’” he said. “I put a lot of stock in that.”
Greenway’s physical presence can help when opponents try to take liberties with the Sabres.
“What I noticed wasn’t that we were getting pushed around, but that teams were certainly trying to bully us,” Adams said. “I don’t think there’s any way around it when you watch our games, a number of the teams, especially going after our top players and just game after game targeting them. It was clear.
“Now, I think what our guys did was fantastic in terms of standing up for themselves, for each other, competing, not backing down, not giving up, one inch. I didn’t see that at all, which is a great sign.”
Adams said when Greenway’s on the ice, “everyone’s aware.”
“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,” he said. “Now, what we’re building towards … is setting this franchise up for sustainable success. 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.”
The Wild drafted Greenway in the second round in 2015, 50th overall. He played three years at Boston University before turning pro.
The American has two seasons left on a three-year, $9 million contract.