BUFFALO – Following his first season as an NHL regular and a standout performance at the World Championship, forward Rasmus Asplund was expected to become a big contributor to the Sabres this year.
Instead, Asplund, 25, lost his regular spot in the lineup in late November, quickly morphing into a spare part.
The Swede had played just two of the last 18 games and 27 overall this season when the Sabres dealt him to the Nashville Predators shortly before Friday’s trade deadline.
The return, a seventh-round draft pick in 2025, was light. But Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams wanted to find the Asplund a fresh opportunity and receive something in return.
As players have fallen out of the Sabres’ plans, Adams has tried to find them new homes. On Thursday, he traded winger Anders Bjork, who has spent nearly all year in the minors, to the Chicago Blackhawks.
“Rasmus Asplund, I can’t say enough good things about the human being,” Adams said Friday in KeyBank Center, where the Sabres host the Tampa Bay Lightning this afternoon. “I understand it was a challenging season for him. He had a real good year last year, kind of just out of the lineup and it’s hard.
“So I was really just hoping to do the right thing for him but also we wanted to at least find a way to get an asset back.”
Asplund compiled eight goals and 27 points in 80 games last season. He has mustered just two goals and eight points this year.
The Sabres drafted him in the second round in 2016, 33rd overall.
“He was a good pro,” Adams said. “I just spoke to him … and he was just really appreciative. He said, ‘I can’t wait to see you guys in the playoffs, it’s going to be fun to watch.’ So it just gives you a little insight into what a special person it is.”
Top Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, out the last three games recovering from a lower-body injury, practiced Friday for the first time since leaving the lineup last week.
The Sabres will see how Dahlin, 22, feels in the morning before deciding if he can play.
“It’s been nagging me for a while,” he said. “It’s been a few weeks, the same stuff going on. I had to take a step back to be smart about, so we made the right decision.”
The Sabres on Thursday placed Dahlin on injured reserved retroactive to last Friday.
Adams acknowledged that goalie prospect Erik Portillo, whose rights he traded to the Los Angles Kings, did not want to sign with the Sabres.
Portillo, 22, is a junior at Michigan.
The Sabres have rookie goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, who turns 24 next week, playing the majority of their games. Meanwhile, prospect Devon Levi, 21, has been one of college hockey’s elite netminders again at Northeastern this season.
“I was really, really hoping to come into this deadline and make a deal for Portillo,” Adams said. “… It became clear to me I was told this was not a market that he felt he wanted to play in and didn’t necessarily see a pathway to the NHL. We want players that want to be here and players that want to compete every day to be National Hockey League players.
“So it was really important to try to find a way to recoup that asset, which fortunately we were able to do. It’s a great deal for LA, they’re getting a really talented goalie who’s a very good prospect.”
On Wednesday, the Kings sent the Sabres a third-round pick in this year’s draft. Buffalo drafted Portillo in the third round in 2019, 67th overall.
The Swede could’ve become a free agent this summer.
Shortly before Friday’s deadline, the Sabres swapped AHL defensemen with Anaheim, sending Chase Priskie to the Ducks in exchange for Austin Strand.
The 6-foot-3, 208-pound Strand, 26, has compiled three assists in 26 career NHL outings with the Ducks and Los Angeles Kings.
He has registered two goals, eight points and a minus-24 rating in 46 contests with the San Diego Gulls this season.
Priskie, 26, recorded four goals and nine points and a minus-6 rating in 42 games with the Rochester Americans. He enjoyed a strong training camp with the Sabres before suffering an early-season injury with the Amerks.
“Just a little bit of a change of scenery for Priskie to go out,” Adams said. “That was kind of one of those he was kind of looking for a different opportunity, and (assistant GM) Jason Karmanos, I thought, did a nice job really working around the league to find that for him.”
Adams said the Sabres signed goalie Michael Houser, 30, to an NHL contract this week “just in case of a worst-case scenario.”
Houser, who had been playing in Rochester on an AHL deal, inked NHL deals during the season the last two years because the Sabres needed goalie help.
The Sabres have five goalies under contract.