Beck Malenstyn (13) had spent his whole career in Washington’s organization. ©2024, Micheline Veluvolu, Rochester Americans

Sabres looking to make more moves after trading for Beck Malenstyn

LAS VEGAS – Considering how aggressively general manager Kevyn Adams has spent the offseason pursuing trades to upgrade the Buffalo Sabres, leaving the NHL Draft with one new roster player, winger Beck Malenstyn, seems disappointing.

Still, in trading the 43rd overall pick on Saturday to the Washington Capitals in exchange for Malenstyn, 26, the Sabres addressed a significant need by becoming tougher to play against.

The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Malenstyn, a pending restricted free agent, gives the Sabres a much-needed physical presence among their bottom-six forwards and a penalty killer.

“It’s certainly something we’ve talked a lot about this offseason, identifying some players that check some boxes in terms of physicality, hard to play against,” Adams said Saturday following the draft in The Sphere. “He’s 6-foot-3, led their team in hits, penalty killer as well, character guy.

“But when he hits, he hits hard. … Physicality’s one part, but just be harder to play against, and he’s certainly someone who brings that every night. That was a big need that we came to this offseason looking for.”

More later on Malenstyn, whose acquisition could mean veteran winger Zemgus Girgensons’ 11-year career in Buffalo is over. Adams said he plans to talk to Girgensons, who can become an unrestricted free agent, in the next day.

What about the rest of the Sabres’ needs? Malenstyn’s arrival should help, but the Sabres are only marginally better. Adams plans to keep looking for trades.

“We were aggressive (Friday) night in different ways that if it made sense, which we were trying to do, to help our roster, that was out there as well but teams weren’t comfortable making the moves that we were hoping that we could do,” he said. “So now you continue conversations tonight and into tomorrow on some different things that we have that are still out there a little bit.”

Adams can also improve Buffalo’s roster free agency, which opens Monday.

“We’ve tiered it, we’ve done the work internally, we’ve prioritized exactly what we’re looking for, the needs, right from forwards through the organization, D and goaltending,” Adams said of free agency. “Now we’ll go after it. And it’s always a little unsure because it has to be a match.

“We have to put our best foot forward in terms of free agents and they have to want to be in Buffalo, and we got to make it work.”

The Sabres needed more scoring before Adams announced Saturday they had started the process to buy out the final three years of winger Jeff Skinner’s contract. Skinner has averaged 31 goals over the last three seasons.

Malenstyn, having scored just eight goals in his 108-game NHL career, won’t contribute much offense. But the Sabres have acquired a player they believe gets in opponents’ heads.

Buffalo’s brass watched Malenstyn up close in the 2023 Calder Cup Playoffs, when Washington’s AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears, beat the Rochester Americans in the Eastern Conference final.

“(Former Rochester coach) Seth Appert, as this discussion was going on over the last few days, said in the American Hockey League, teams were scared to play against him,” Adams said. “He was clearly someone, when he stepped on the ice, had a lot of respect and a lot of room.

“And I think the way he performed last year and was able to bring that element to the National Hockey League, leading a team in hits, says something just about the consistency of it, especially when you got Tom Wilson on the team. I just think it’s an area he understand his role and plays it well.”

While what constitutes a hit often varies from rink to rink, Malenstyn registered 241. Defenseman Connor Clifton’s 204 hits led the Sabres last season. Winger Jordan Greenway’s 141 hits topped the forward corps.

Adams, who had the 42nd and 43rd picks in his arsenal, had no problem trading a second-rounder. The Sabres acquired the 42nd selection from the San Jose Sharks on Thursday.

“In my mind, we were going to shop it as hard as we could to find what we were looking for in some way,” he said.

Adams said he “had a great talk” with Malenstyn.

“I’ve been there, trust me, as a player,” he said. “Sometimes you’re a little shocked. He couldn’t have been more excited and more on board and knows some players on our team, likes our team and is ready to go.”

Malenstyn compiled six goals, 21 points, 25 penalty minutes and a minus-1 rating for last season while averaging 14 minutes, 15 seconds of ice time each outing. He has registered 24 points, 36 penalty minutes and an even rating in 105 career NHL games.

The Capitals drafted Malenstyn in fifth round in 2016, 124th overall.

He won the Western Hockey League title with the Swift Current Broncos in 2018 and the Calder Cup with Hershey in 2023.

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