Share this article

print logo

Mike Harrington: After a whirlwind month, what do Sabres do next?

So if it seems like it's been a whirlwind to follow the Buffalo Sabres for the last month, that's because it has been.

The Scouting Combine hit Buffalo and gave us our first introduction to Rasmus Dahlin. We followed him to Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final – the first NHL game the 18-year-old had ever seen live. Then came the worldwide coverage of draft week in Dallas, as he became just the second Swede ever to be named the No. 1 overall pick.

The work in Big D was done but the work in Buffalo was just beginning. Dahlin headed straight to the 716 for his opening news conference, got handed his No. 26 sweater and then hit town the next day to visit team sponsors – with none other than Gilbert Perreault as his sidekick.

The next four days were spent on the HarborCenter ice at development camp, as 1,800 sets of eyes were peeled on his every move. And those of several promising future teammates.

Dahlin was finally able to take a breath and head back to Sweden for a few weeks but there was no breather in the Buffalo front office as free agency started relatively quiet and ended with the blockbuster Ryan O'Reilly trade with St. Louis that was the first 5-for-1 transaction in franchise history.


So with nine members of the 2017-18 Sabres currently signed with with other organizations, and six current members of the 2018-19 club coming from other clubs, what's next?

Things will quiet down some, like they do most summers. NHL free agency is over in a flash, unlike the stretched-for-weeks scenarios of baseball.

The trade market, although alive some, also gets quiet. Hockey executives and agents like their summers at the cottages of Canada and activity often slows until September.

Here's a look at some items on the Sabres' upcoming docket:

* Work a new deal with Sam Reinhart: GM Jason Botterill has said multiple times the last few weeks he does not anticipate a problem in this area but it rates as one of the more interesting negotiations with a restricted free agent in the league this summer.

Reinhart and his reps will undoubtedly be looking for some solid term and dollars. After all, he's a two-time, 20-goal scorer by age 22 coming off career highs of 25 goals and 50 points and has missed just six games in the last three years. He finished last year with a flourish, scoring 20 goals in the season's final 44 games and pouring in 11 over the final 18 games in March and April.

But the Sabres have to be wary, too. Reinhart was drafted No. 2 overall in 2014 and still does not project to be an NHL center. He was abysmal at the start of last season, not scoring a goal in December and hitting the Jan. 1 Winter Classic with just five on the season before putting together some of the best hockey of his career in the second half. The Sabres might want more of a bridge deal.

Which player is Reinhart anyway? Hard to tell.

For comparison sake, Columbus signed winger Boone Jenner, 25, to a four-year, $15 million contract on Wednesday. He's got 86 goals and 161 points in 342 career games, is coming off a 13-goal season and has just one season of 20-plus. Reinhart has higher rates of goals and points per game in his career.

* Have other restricted free agents accept their qualifying offers. In addition to Reinhart, five forwards were qualified by the team last month and you would expect them all to accept their offers. The list includes C.J. Smith and Danny O'Regan ($874,125 each), Sean Malone and Nick Baptiste ($787,500 each) and Justin Bailey ($715,000).

* Sign Dahlin to his entry-level deal. This could happen any day. It's pretty much a formality. As the No. 1 overall pick, he's almost certain to get the rookie max of $925,000 and bonus opportunities up to the max of roughly $2.8 million.

* Is another veteran defenseman to help Dahlin in the offing? The Sabres suddenly seem deep on the blueline and newly acquired Matt Hunwick certainly could be a help in the rookie's transition. For now at least, it appears Zach Bogosian might be the main candidate to open the season as Dahlin's defense partner.

But health is always a question with Bogosian, who has played just 74 games combined the last two years. He has to come to camp healthy after February hip surgery. It will be interesting to see if he can.

* Is that it on left wing? Conor Sheary looks like he'll be Jack Eichel's running mate on the top line but after that is anyone's guess. Vladimir Sobotka, acquired from St. Louis in the O'Reilly trade, could be No. 2. Evan Rodrigues and C.J. Smith will both be given a chance to push as high as No. 2 or 3 on the depth chart. It's the thinnest area on the roster. Botterill didn't want to go big money in free agency on this side. Is there a trade to be had?

* Get more help up front in Rochester: Colin Blackwell (Nashville) and Seth Griffith (Winnipeg) have both left the organization. The Amerks are set in goal with Scott Wedgewood and Adam Wilcox and appear deep enough on defense as well. They need more goals from their forwards. Counting on Alex Nylander to break through at age 20 is not the recipe for success right now.

Story topics: / / /

There are no comments - be the first to comment