BUFFALO – This offseason, general manager Kevyn Adams is having different conversations with his counterparts as he works to improve the Sabres.
Having watched his team record 91 points and fall two points short of a playoff spot in 2022-23, he said he’s examining “every possible scenario.”
That wasn’t the case as the Sabres went through a two-year rebuild. But after enjoying their best season in 12 years, they’re a different mode this summer.
The Sabres, of course, expect to make the playoffs in the upcoming season, and Adams will possibly make some moves to provide them immediate help.
“Maybe some of those conversations a year or two ago maybe wouldn’t have made sense,” Adams said Wednesday during a news conference in KeyBank Center to discuss the upcoming NHL Draft.
Adams has been deliberate in constructing the Sabres, refusing to take any shortcuts that would provide a quick fix but ultimately set them back. Don’t expect him to suddenly pivot and try something new because they took some significant steps.
Yes, the Sabres have a more talented roster and appear close to becoming a legitimate contender in the crowded Eastern Conference. Still, Adams has always planned to set them up for sustainable success.
“You have to go into this very methodical, calm and flush everything out and make sure that ultimately the decisions you make are because you really are on board with what that’s going to do to help you win a Stanley Cup, not just do a move to make,” he said. “It puts us in a little bit of a different spot compared to maybe other drafts, but still philosophically, how I look at things is maybe similar.”
Right now, the Sabres have 22 NHL players under contract and $14,459,763 of projected salary cap space, according to capfriendly.com.
They have plenty of needs. Ideally, they’d like to find another top-four defenseman. While they have three goalies, including promising youngsters Devon Levi and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, they don’t have an established starter at the most critical position.
Like any team, they’d probably be interested in adding more scoring and depth everywhere.
The Sabres have assets other teams covet. They’ve greatly improved their prospect pool. Adams, however, said in March that teenage centers Jiri Kulich and Matt Savoie “were nonstarters in conversations” prior to the trade deadline.
It’s believed they’d like to deal winger Victor Olofsson, who’s coming off a 28-goal season but sat out as a healthy scratch late in the year. Olofsson, 27, has one year and $4.75 million left on his contract.
The Sabres have one first-round pick at the NHL Draft on Wednesday in Nashville – they had three last year and two in 2021 – and eight selections over the two-day event (two second-rounders and one in each of the other rounds).
Not surprisingly, Adams doesn’t seem keen on the idea of trading the 13th pick.
“You always have to be open to making our team better,” he said. “And ultimately the philosophy I have is every decision we make should be toward helping us try to win the Stanley Cup and have sustainable success. So do I believe that more times than not, it’s better to keep your first-round pick and have that and build up your pipeline and that sustainable success is met by continuing to have that pipeline feeder in your organization.
“But if we sat and really talked about a situation that came across that we felt was the right thing to help us move closer to winning a Stanley Cup, and it involved a first-round pick, then we would do it well.”
Adams understands he must have a firm grasp of the marketplace and cost acquisition.
“If you’re acquiring players, if you’re going to give up assets, too – that’s just the way this works – so you have to get comfortable with all of that,” he said. “But … we will not be in a situation where we will panic or we will feel like we have to do something just to do it and end up setting our franchise back longer-term.
“Of course, if there’s a way to do something that improves the roster, we’re looking at every single thing. But we’re just not going to chase it; we’re going to come from a position of strength. We feel that we are in a really good spot right now. I like the way our team’s coming together, we want to improve. If deals make sense, then we’re going to look at all scenarios.”