The Buffalo Sabres are entering a new era and there are plenty of questions as to how their new general manager should take the team forward.
Kevyn Adams has been with the Buffalo Sabres organisation for 11 years now and is entering his first off-season as the team’s general manager, having replaced Jason Botterill just over two months ago.
The Sabres are in a very unique position this off-season, with only 10 players on their roster locked up for the 2020-21 season and only five of them locked up for at least another year after.
This means that Adams will have something virtually no other general manager in the NHL has, except for expansion teams, and that is the chance to truly build a team in his image.
Prior to the NHL’s regular-season being halted and eventually cancelled, the Sabres were clearly not making the playoffs and the season was once again viewed as a disappointment for an organisation that has Jack Eichel leading the way.
This team needs to build and work towards a stronger future, which may lead to Eichel leaving after missing the playoffs in every single year of his professional career, but making the playoffs is not the goal that they should be striving for.
The aim of every season is to win the Stanley Cup and the Buffalo Sabres have not looked anywhere near ever being in consideration for that over the past decade and it’s time for Adams, who has witnessed it all over the past 11 years, to start building a team that can eventually be considered.
This means giving Eichel the teammates who can help complement him and what he brings to the organisation.
The Sabres have a decent defensive corps, though they must address their goaltending at the earliest opportunity in free agency, but building a long-term contender requires a strong offence, and adding a top young talent in the draft is a great step forward for the team.
With this in mind, Adams must look at the offensive players who can give the Sabres some real value and upside when their name is called with the eighth overall selection.
Strong teams build through the middle, with centres having a higher value and role on the ice than winger,s and one player who could be the perfect addition to the team would be Anton Lundell.
The 18-year-old Finn has been ranked anywhere between eighth and 16th in the draft rankings, which should put him firmly in place to be selected by the Sabres when they make the first of their six draft selections in October.
The 6-foot-1, 187 lbs centre has been developing his game with HIFK in the Finnish SM-Liiga, having tallied 19 goals and 47 total points over the past two seasons (72 games played), solid numbers for a teenager playing professional hockey against fully grown men.
Lundell has been viewed as arguably the most well-rounded player in the draft, with smart positioning, some goalscoring upside and play-making skill combined with strong defensive senses – with some believing he could become a perennial Selke Trophy candidate if he can develop and reach his potential in the NHL.
He is also viewed as a player with leadership qualities, being named an alternate captain for HIFK this season, despite not turning 19 until October.
The Sabres have missed Ryan O’Reilly ever since he was traded away and having a two-strong punch at the centre position is something the team could really use moving forward, especially with the defensive attributes that Lundell offers.
He may not be the flashiest player in the draft and other prospects may have put up bigger numbers, though most haven’t played professionally, but Lundell would give the Sabres a legitimate long-term replacement for O’Reilly and a young player who can help complement Eichel’s immense offensive talents.
Lundell will be best served continuing his development in one of the best European professional leagues next season, especially considering it starts much sooner than the NHL.
However, in a year or two he could be knocking on the door and playing important minutes for the Buffalo Sabres in what could, hopefully, be the start of a new and promising era.