Kevyn Adams knows he must make moves. ©2024, Micheline Veluvolu

Trading first pick could only be start of Sabres’ aggressive dealing at NHL Draft

LAS VEGAS – In trading the 11th overall pick in tonight’s NHL Draft to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for the 14th and 42nd selections, general manager Kevyn Adams acquired more assets that could help him aggressively reshape the Sabres in the coming days.

After Thursday’s deal, the Sabres have nine picks this weekend at The Sphere, including two second-round selections (42nd and 43rd). They’ve also assembled a stable of strong prospects over the past few years.

Adams possesses enough capital to make bold moves.

The Sabres, who own an NHL-record 13-year playoff drought, are under enormous pressure from their disgruntled fan base to end their embarrassing streak.

So this draft, which kicks off with the first round tonight, is about more than selecting players. Over the past few years, the Sabres have used their high picks to replenish their prospect pool. Some of those youngsters are already contributing in the NHL.

Now, Adams, who liked his roster so much last year he mostly made minor offseason moves, must acquire talent to help the Sabres right now.

“It feels very different this year in terms of how we’re looking at the phase we’re in, is the best way to say it,” Adams said Thursday in the Wynn Hotel. “I feel like the last three years at the draft was so much about making sure we that we were building our pipeline up and our prospect pool and putting ourselves in a position to have assets in our organization. Meanwhile, (you’re) trying to do your best to look for trades and what options are out there to help your team. …

“But it has flipped in the sense that we need to take a step. We need to be a team that’s competitive getting in the playoffs and fighting for those opportunities to do what we need to do here, which is win a Stanley Cup. So we’re willing to look at anything and everything that makes us better. And I think you always in this job are going to do that, but just with now that we’ve built up the assets and the opportunities, we’re actively trying.”

Adams had been open about his willingness to trade the 11th pick. He said said he started discussing Thursday’s deal with his San Jose counterpart, former Sabres winger Mike Grier, in early May.

The Sabres are confident they can select a player they like 14th overall.

“When we look at this year’s draft, we feel pretty strongly that after six or seven it’s really a wide range of where the names are gonna go,” Adams said. “We felt it’s a real good value for us to make that deal. We really like the group of players we see ourselves potentially targeting at 14. We pick up an extra asset which is good value at pick 42. …

“We’re actively shopping around to look and see if there’s a deal to make to help our roster better with pick 43. So this just gives us a little bit more ammunition.”

Adams said teams he has discussed trades with would still be interested in the Sabres’ first pick.

“Any trade that we’ve potentially looked at or talked about, there could still be the same trade there at 14,” he said. “That’s part of the thought process as well. But it doesn’t mean we’re done here. We’re going to actively look.

“This pick’s available if makes sense for us. We have assets to move back up. We could move down. We just felt this one made sense.”

Some moves, of course, won’t make sense. For example, in Jiri Kulich and Matt Savoie, the Sabres have two of hockey’s top center prospects. Teams are surely asking Adams about their availability, although it seems highly unlikely the Sabres would part with the youngsters.

Adams said he doesn’t like to take anything off the table.

“I’d rather have conversations and you can always say no,” he said. “Are there internally certain players that we would be unlikely to move? Of course, especially when you’re talking about prospects in particular.”

What could Adams be looking for over the coming days and weeks?

“I’d like to see us get a little bit harder to play against,” he said. “I’d like to see us have a little more physicality, especially … lower on our depth chart on D or in that bottom three, four group and our forward lines.

“And then lastly, I think you just want to see guys that maybe have some versatility that can bump up your lineup if you have injuries, even if it’s for a short time, have versatility that they could kill penalties or be power play.”

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