NASHVILLE – In the case of Sabres winger Victor Olofsson, both sides are willing to accept blame for his disappointing season.
Despite scoring a career-high 28 goals, Olofsson sat out seven late-season games as a healthy scratch, including five critical contests down the stretch.
“He knows he could’ve maybe performed at certain times,” Adams said Tuesday in the Renaissance Nashville Hotel.
On the other hand, Adams said “maybe we need to make sure that we’re helping him be put in situations where his gifts can come out and perform better.”
Adams acknowledged he’s exploring the trade market for the Swede, who has one year and $4.75 million left on his contract. Activity, of course, always heats up around the NHL Draft, which starts tonight at Bridgestone Arena.
“It’s all really positive with Vic,” he said. “We’re open to kind of looking at everything. That’s what I told him and promised him that I would do and see what’s out there.”
Adams said the Sabres haven’t soured on Olofsson, who also scored a career-high 21 even-strength goals last season.
“We really like Victor Olofsson and if we get back and we’re starting in training camp, we need to make sure that we’re putting him in a position to succeed,” he said. “So that’s kind of the give and take of it. But the way I handle these things are just open honesty and making sure we’re all doing the best we can to kind of move forward.”
Adams said he’s working on finding assistant coaches for the Rochester Americans to replace Michael Peca and Mike Weber, both of whom recently left for NHL jobs.
He conducted an interview earlier this week and hopes to have one spot filled soon. He said another hire could be made “soon or within the next few weeks.”
Adams said he expects Amerks coach Seth Appert, who has led the AHL team to four series wins over the last two years, to return.
“Such an important piece in our organization,” he said. “… He and I have a very, very close relationship, and I’ve told him from Day One, when and if there’s the right opportunity (to move up), I want to help him in every possible way.
“I believe 100 percent that Seth Appert will be an NHL head coach someday. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when, in my opinion. For right now, where he’s at, I think he feels like he’s in a good spot.”
In 2021, the Sabres used the 188th selection to draft defenseman Nikita Novikov, a youngster committed to his Russian team for the near future.
Still, it was a low-risk, high-reward move. The Sabres had only spent a sixth-round pick. If Novikov came to North America someday, they might have a terrific prospect.
In the meantime, Novikov kept developing – he played two seasons with the Kontinental Hockey League’s Moscow Dynamo – and last month the Sabres signed him to an entry-level contract.
Novikov, 19, is one of six Russian prospects Adams has drafted since 2021. In the previous five years under Adams and his predecessors, the Sabres took zero.
So far, four have signed. Novikov and forward Victor Neuchev are expected to play for the Amerks next season. Winger Aleksandr Kisakov recently completed his first season in Rochester. Defenseman Vsevolod Komarov has another year he must complete in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Prior to Russian’s invasion of the Ukraine, some of the country’s prospects stayed home to play or jetted back overseas, so sometimes their draft stock plummeted. Now, the war has made Russian players tougher to see up close. The Sabres, however, have a scout who attends games in the country.
Russia has been suspended from participating in the World Junior Championship and other tournaments, meaning the country’s top prospects can’t be viewed in a best-on-best setting.
Only one Russian attended the NHL Scouting Combine this month.
Still, the Sabres, who also analyze Russian prospects closely on video, seem comfortable taking more this week.
Adams said again last week he wants Jerry Forton, Buffalo’s director of amateur scouting, and his staff to evaluate Russians as hockey players first. Then the Sabres assess what Adams called the “risk-reward.” If a certain player’s available, is the organization comfortable taking him?
“I can’t say right now exactly how that works,” he said last Wednesday. “But I guess the way I would say is if you looked back at the last couple of drafts, we’ve taken different Russian players at different picks because we thought the reward was right, it was the right time for it based on where we had them on our board as talented hockey players and then where we picked them.”
Adams believes teams will be having those risk-reward talks about forward Matvei Michkov, a Russian prospect who has three years left on his KHL deal. NHL Central Scouting ranks Michkov second among European skaters.
“My time as general manager, I can’t think of anything even kind of close to this where you have such a unique situation,” Adams said Tuesday of Michkov.
Adams said the Sabres haven’t had any contract extension talks with forward Casey Mittelstadt’s camp.
Mittelstadt, 24, is eligible to sign a new deal July 1. He’s entering the final season of a three-year, $7.5 million contract.
“It’s not from a lack of that we’re not interested in doing that,” he said. “We definitely are, in terms of what he means to our group and the leader that he’s emerged as and just certainly the way he performed down the stretch.”
Mittelstadt just enjoyed a career-best season, scoring 15 goals and 59 points in 82 games.
Sabres defenseman Owen Power, who finished third in the voting for the Calder Trophy at Monday’s NHL Awards, earned a spot on the NHL All-Rookie Team.
“In terms of what his impact is on the game, and the role he plays and the way he plays, yeah, he’s my rookie (of the year),” Adams said.