Sabres discuss draft but all eyes still on possible trades leading up to Friday night

Sports

Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (9) warms up before an NHL hockey game against the Washington Capitals, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – All eyes are still on Jack Eichel when it comes to the Sabres, as this has been the case since the season ended.

The NHL draft starts Friday night and this is usually when many trades and deals are made. So Eichel watch will ramp up even more as the draft approaches especially if Sabres general managers Kevyn Adams is looking to get another first-round pick in a deal for Eichel or any other picks in this year’s draft as well.

“Lots of conversations, lots of different scenarios,” Adams said on Thursday.

Adams had his pre-draft press conference at KeyBank Center along with associate general manager Jason Karmanos and Director of Amateur Scouting Jerry Forton. But Adams started off the morning by saying he wasn’t going to talk about any possible trades or specific players that might be involved in those.

“We’re willing to listen to every possible thing that’s going to get our franchise pointing in the right direction,” Adams said.

As for the possibility of getting another first-round pick this year, it’s certainly an option but not necessarily something they’re looking at as a “must get”.

“We’re not focused on that saying hey we have to do this but if it’s the right deal that we think makes sense for us as we look to build around a young core of players then we would do that but it has to be the right thing for us,” Adams explained.

“It’s not something we’re just gonna do to do it. We have to look each other in the eye and say this is the best thing for the Buffalo Sabres.”

But does the possibility of getting more picks this year put more pressure on Adams to get a deal done before the draft gets underway?

“Those conversations happen before where I lean on Jason and Jerry and the scouting staff to say where are we if this pick became available first round, where is our list where we see a tier, is there a fall off at a certain number and how does that shake out,” Adams said.

“You look at every situation and you think is this the right thing for our franchise for where we are right now and if you wait the unknown could be something else and you balance that and then you make the best decision at that time but that’s definitely stuff we’ve been talking about for months leading up to today and tomorrow.”

The expansion draft also adds another unique element to everything this year for every team. Seattle selected Will Borgen from the Sabres on Wednesday.

“We didn’t want to lose anyone. I’m a big fan of Will as a person, as a player, high character and Seattle got a good one there,” Adams explained.

“So you understand what’s coming, you look at every possible scenario but you have to be, in my opinion, and what we’ve talked about is we have to be really careful making an emotional decision. or trying to do something where maybe you’re giving up more assets just to save some things so it’s a challenge.”

One element of drafting players that is challenging is the timeline of their development. Most of these players you won’t see for years so when it comes to trades or acquiring picks, obviously teams want to add organizational depth, young prospects but front offices also have to balance that with getting players who can help a team win now whether that’s through deals or free agency.

“I think you have to be careful to make short-term decisions without having a foundation strong and that’s where we need to make sure that we’re philosophically all aligned, building the foundation we’re finding quality players whether it’s current players on our team, players around the league or our drafted players that we can build as a core and that wanna be here,” Adams explained.

“I believe we’re in a much better spot than is perceived. We’ve got a young core that we rightfully so think very highly of that could be part of our success in the future,” Karmanos said.

The Sabres will have to rely on this young core of Dylan Cozens, Casey Mittelstadt and Rasmus Dahlin (just to name a few) to step up if guys like Eichel, Sam Reinhart and Rasmus Ristolainen leave.

“I think it’s an obvious point but the teams that win they have an incredible amount of depth throughout their organization. We don’t have that yet and that’s understandable for where we are so we need to use the various modes that we have in place to acquire players and find talent and we need to do a good job making those decisions,” Karmanos said.

“We have to stay true to our core principles as we make these decisions and sometimes in crunch time. So if we balance all of that but I think the bigger point is that we have to really focus on the foundation in the short-term and then talk about how do we build it for the longer-term,” Adams explained.

The Sabres will kick things off on Friday as they have the first overall pick.

“I think there’s an unbelievable opportunity in front of us. We have an unbelievable opportunity as an organization to stick with the vision, to move this forward, to stick to our core principles and really take on the feeling of stacking wins,” Adams said.

Heather Prusak is a sports reporter who joined the News 4 team in 2020. See more of her work here.

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