BUFFALO – As the season dragged on and Rasmus Asplund remained a spare part, he would often talk to Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams and coach Don Granato about his uncertain future.
For a year and a half, Asplund, 25, had enjoyed regular duty. Last season, the Swede emerged as a dependable two-way forward while playing a career-high 80 games.
The Sabres, however, beefed up their forward depth this season, adding rookies JJ Peterka and Jack Quinn following standout seasons in the minors.
Asplund briefly dropped out of the lineup in late October. After they claimed center Tyson Jost on waivers in mid-November, he lost his regular spot, playing just 10 of the next 41 games.
On March 1, shortly before the trade deadline, the Sabres dealt Asplund to the Nashville Predators in exchange for a seventh-round pick in 2025.
“I needed to play, right?” Asplund said Tuesday prior to Nashville’s 7-3 win over the Sabres, his first visit back to KeyBank Center. “… I talked to Kevyn and Donny a lot during the year. I think we all just came to the conclusion that I needed an opportunity to play and keep developing, and this was the chance to get that. So I think we’re all pretty satisfied with what happened.”
While Asplund wanted a fresh start, he acknowledged the trade was “a little hard to take in.” The Sabres drafted him in the second round in 2016, 33rd overall. He grew up in the organization and played 164 games for Buffalo over parts of four seasons.
“I’ve never been through that before and all of a sudden, you’re belonging to another team,” he said. “So it was a different experience, for sure. But it was exciting at the same time.”
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Asplund, who compiled two goals and eight points in 27 games with the Sabres this season, understands he did not do enough to keep his spot.
“We’re living in a performance-based industry and it’s all about how you perform,” he said. “If I was good enough or I was performing good enough, I think I would’ve been in the lineup. … I didn’t come up to the standards I had last season this year.”
So what happened? Why did Asplund perform so poorly for the Sabres this season? He said he’s “been sleepless a lot of nights” trying to figure out what went wrong.
“What it comes down to is just a consistency of games and all that,” he said. “When you’re starting to be out for two, you’re in for one and all that, I think that really slowed down my momentum to keep developing. It felt like I always started on square one every game. I think that didn’t help me come back to the player I want to be.
“It’s tough, for sure. It’s a league to stay in and it’s tough mentally, too, when you slowly see your dream slip away a little bit. It’s been a tough year.”
Tuesday was Asplund’s seventh game with the Predators.