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Sabres sign GM Kevyn Adams to multiyear contract extension

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Sabres Development Camp

Buffalo Sabres General Manager Kevyn Adams sits with owner Terry Pegula during the Sabres French Connection 3 on 3 tournament on final day of development camp at LECOM Harborcenter on July 16, 2022. 

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Kevyn Adams oversaw the Buffalo Sabres’ overhaul of hockey operations, installed Don Granato as coach, shepherded the franchise through its dispute with its former star player, Jack Eichel, and overhauled the organization’s roster from top to bottom.

Although the Sabres are still in the early stages of Adams’ plan to build a winner in Buffalo, his work as general manager in two-plus calendar years officially earned him a multiyear contract extension, the Sabres announced Wednesday at the official start of training camp.

‘"Kevyn's leadership and vision over the past two seasons have proven to be invaluable, and I am confident in his ability to continue to move us forward as an organization," Sabres owner Terry Pegula said in a news release. "He is respected by players, coaches, staff and peers around the league alike due to the poise with which he carries himself and the respect he reciprocates to every individual he encounters. He has grown in different roles throughout the organization, providing him unique perspectives that help him perform at the highest level as general manager.

"I, along with the fans and community, am happy to see Kevyn continue to build a winning culture both on and off the ice. Additionally, I am appreciative of his communication skills and dedication to the entire organization. I am thrilled to extend Kevyn's contract and have him lead the Buffalo Sabres for several years to come."

Adams, 47, a Clarence native and Stanley Cup champion during his NHL playing career, proved his effectiveness since his promotion to the role of general manager in June 2020.

His first coaching hire, Granato, transformed the Sabres on the ice by implementing a fast-paced style of play that fits the club’s young talent. Adams successfully pivoted following a 2020-21 season in which Buffalo endured a franchise-worse 18-game winless streak that cost Ralph Krueger his job as coach and led to the departures of veteran, rental forwards Taylor Hall and Eric Staal, both of whom were traded for draft picks.

Adams then shipped out former franchise cornerstones Rasmus Ristolainen and Sam Reinhart in the summer of 2021 while continuing a standoff with Eichel over the captain’s preference to undergo artificial disk replacement surgery to repair his injured neck. The six-month saga ended in November 2021 with Eichel’s trade to the Vegas Golden Knights, which brought a haul of NHL-ready players and prospects to Buffalo.

For Eichel, the Sabres acquired Alex Tuch, a childhood fan of the club while growing up in Baldwinsville; center Peyton Krebs; and two draft picks, including a first-round selection that Buffalo used in July on Swedish center Noah Ostlund.

With Tuch and Krebs, and a healthy roster around them, the Sabres experienced a breakthrough late last season with a points percentage that ranked 13th in the NHL from the beginning of March to the end of April, a span of 26 games.

Lauded for his patience and leadership by others in the organization, Adams chose to hire Granato instead of a big-name, veteran NHL bench boss in the summer of 2021. Granato, who had ample head coaching experience at every other level, including the American Hockey League, immediately injected confidence in the Sabres’ key young players by eliminating the fear that a mistake could lead to a quick benching.

"He includes everyone," said Jerry Forton, the Sabres' director of amateur scouting. "Let’s everyone do their jobs. And he’s done an incredible job at bringing this entire organization together. I’ve seen it firsthand. We’ve obviously been through a lot, not only the last month or so but the whole organization’s been through a lot since I’ve been here. To see the coaches and the development staff and the Rochester staff and all our support staff, how everyone works together, to me that all starts with the Pegulas and Kevyn. ... But he was great on the floor. He was always professional and he includes everyone. He’s respectful. And he has a lot on his plate managing that many people. And he does it with dignity and professionalism.”

Rasmus Dahlin emerged as one of the best defensemen in the league as a first-time All-Star in 2021-22, Tage Thompson scored a remarkable 38-goals after switching to center in training camp, Jeff Skinner returned to form with a 33-goal season and almost every other important young player on the roster showed significant progress under Granato.

The Sabres’ finish to the 2021-22 has conjured more enthusiasm from the fan base than any other time in the latter half of the current, league-record, 11-year playoff drought. Adams’ progress in building the prospect pipeline was on display at development camp in July and at the Prospects Challenge last week, when Buffalo was able to showcase its embarrassment of riches that have yet to reach the NHL, including Matt Savoie, Noah Ostlund, Jiri Kulich, Isak Rosen, Devon Levi and Aleksandr Kisakov, among others.

Though the Sabres have yet to push for a playoff spot with Adams as general manager, public opinion of him in the role has changed significantly since his first day on the job when he was tasked with firing 22 employees in hockey operations, including former general manager Jason Botterill.

Gradually, Adams rebuilt the staff. He brought on associate general manager Jason Karmanos, hired Sam Ventura to run a larger analytics department and, eventually, replenished the scouting staff to include coverage of Russia. And with success on the ice, Adams eliminated the questions from the fan base and elsewhere about his readiness to take on the job after spending his post-playing career in leadership roles at LECOM Harborcenter and the Sabres’ business operations.

Adams had no experience in an NHL front office but joined the organization as a development coach in 2009 and moved to the coaching staff for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons. Prior to September 2019, when Adams was officially hired as the Sabres’ senior vice president of business operations, he spent five-plus years as the Academy of Hockey’s director at LECOM Harborcenter and several months as general manager of the complex.

Adams brought a different perspective and plan. One of his most controversial decisions early on the job has turned out well for the Sabres. He chose to fire Chris Taylor as coach of the Rochester Americans despite a track record of regular-season success and one key development success story in Victor Olofsson. Adams replaced Taylor with Seth Appert, who was a head coach at the USA Hockey National Team Development Program.

Appert led the Amerks to the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs this spring, the furthest Rochester has advanced since 2005, and, along with his assistant coaches, Michael Peca and Mike Weber, developed the organization’s two top prospects into NHL-ready difference-makers: Jack Quinn and JJ Peterka.

The Sabres have reached another phase in Adams’ plan. Equipped with ample cap space, he signed Thompson to a seven-year contract extension worth $50 million. On the ice, the club has an impressive group on defense, which is led by Dahlin but also includes No. 1 draft pick Owen Power, Mattias Samuelsson, Henri Jokiharju and recent signing Ilya Lubushkin. At forward, the Sabres have several talented forwards who have yet to reach their potential and project to produce more offensively with time.

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News Sports Reporter

I've covered the Sabres and National Hockey League for The Buffalo News since November 2018. My previous work included coverage of the Pittsburgh Pirates and University of Pittsburgh athletics for

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