Sabers open to all possibilities ahead of NHL Trade Deadline, GM says

The Sabers (20-32-8), who are sixth in the eight-team Atlantic Division, could miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the 11th straight season.

“Me personally, I’ve been proactive in terms of talking to everyone in the League, just so they understand what’s going on with us here in Buffalo,” Adams said Monday. “Talking to them about what we’re thinking, what we’re open to, making sure that teams in the League know that we’re really open to any type of conversation, if we think it makes sense for us and it’s going to help the organization move forward.

“Now, I guess in terms of quiet, it’s been a little quieter, maybe, than last year leading up to the deadline. I don’t know if that is to some extent where teams are with the [NHL] salary cap, certain players out there that maybe teams have identified and then everything’s kind of hinging on that, so maybe that’s a little bit of it too. But I do think as you get closer to Monday, just the nature of a deadline creates urgency. Urgency creates opportunity to do things. So I just think that’ll play itself out over the next week.”

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Buffalo, which defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-2 in the 2022 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic on Sunday, has three games remaining before the deadline: at the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday, at the Calgary Flames on Friday and at the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday .

The win against the Maple Leafs, the second against their rival in 12 days, is part of a 4-2-0 run that has optimism building in Buffalo. The Sabers have also defeated the Minnesota Wild and Vegas Golden Knights during this stretch.

“It was nice to see our players get rewarded for what they did on the ice, and then their personalities come through off the ice on a big stage (at the Heritage Classic),” Adams said. “That was, for me, exciting. But in terms of how we’re focused on the deadline, it hasn’t changed our thoughts.

“We’re willing to do whatever we can as an organization if we think it makes sense for us, it’s going to help us. We’re open to different types of things.”

Twelve Sabers who have played in at least one NHL game this season can each become an unrestricted free agent July 13. Four of those players are on injured reserve: defensemen Colin Miller and Will Butcherforward Drake Caggiula and goalie Malcolm Subban. Buffalo has nine picks in the 2022 NHL Draft, including three in the first round.

Adams discussed his thoughts on the deadline, the growth of prospects like defenseman Owen Power and goalie Devon Leviand the progression of the Sabers this season in an interview with

goalies Craig Anderson can become an unrestricted free agent but has played well when healthy. He also seems to be an important part of the team’s identity. Would you consider trading him at the deadline?

“For a guy like Craig, I think there’s a lot that goes into it. Out of respect for him, you have to have open and honest conversation. He and I will have to talk about his own thoughts and what he’s looking for, because I just think that’s the right thing to do. And then you also balance and weigh what he means to the locker room, how he’s performed on the ice. We still have a lot of games left this season and a lot of opportunity for guys to grow and continue to get better.”

Is it a balancing act with players like Craig, who are quality trade assets but also are important to the room?

“It’s a great question because it’s not black and white. I think you have to look at all of it and say, ‘OK, organizationally, where are we at?’ If we’re going to make a move and get an asset in, what is the asset? Does it help us short term, long term? If we move someone out, what does that mean for today, our locker room, the players in the locker room? So you balance all of that. And that’s something we talk about all the time. There [are] players that we have on expiring contracts as UFAs that we really do understand how valuable they’ve been to the team performance and into the locker room and the culture and everything. So are there players that even if we did do something we’d potentially look to be bringing back in free agency if they wanted to come back? That’s something that we could think about as well.”

Are injuries to some of your UFAs affecting what you would like to do at the deadline?

“You think about it but at the same point you can’t dwell on it. It’s something that you can’t control. You’ve heard me probably say a million times, I really talk to our players and our coaches a lot about focus on what you can control. In my position, players going out there and competing every day, and you can’t control some of those things that happen. Now it presents challenges, but every team deals with that so you just kind of have to do the best you can with wherever our players are at that time.”

Has the growth and maturity of the team impacted your plan or what you might be looking for in return in a trade?

“That’s a good question because, for me, you have to always evaluate. You’re always looking long term and projecting but then you have to be honest and look, ‘OK, here’s where players are at today, tomorrow.’ So you’re always having that conversation internally, the staff, with coaches, in my own head, thinking about these things. We need to have a deep pipeline and prospect pool built up. And we’re still in the process of that. I feel that we were able to acquire more draft picks last year, we have three first-round picks coming up this year. That’s exciting for us but we’re still in that mode of where we need a deep pool of prospects to build and to grow on. Our development staff has done a great job this year. So I still think that’s something that where we are at right now, we want to build around this young core, we want to identify those players that are in the young core, and then make sure that as they grow up together that we’re supplementing internally, and that’s why we’re putting this plan together that we started in the offseason.”

The main piece of that young core is Owen Power, a sophomore at the University of Michigan and the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft. Any inclination what his plans of him are when the NCAA season season ends?

“We’re excited about him. We feel strongly that he’s going to be a player that… we drafted him for a reason and we’re looking forward to that day when he puts the jersey on. But we’ve wanted to really make sure that in fairness to him and fairness to his team — they’re in playoffs right now — that we just let him know, we don’t need to be a distraction. right now and then the other stuff will take care of itself. But we have a plan. We have a plan for him and we have since the beginning.”

Devon Levi has been brilliant as a sophomore this season with Northeastern University, going 21-8-1 with a 1.47 goals-against average, .954 save percentage and 10 shutouts in 30 games. Has his play changed your plans for the goaltending situation at all?

“I don’t want to say it’s changed. It’s changed our thoughts because we were extremely excited to acquire him in the trade (with the Florida Panthers for forward Sam Reinhart) last year. I give our guys a lot of credit for doing the work to prepare when we made that trade. So I don’t want to say it’s changed anything, but certainly what he’s done this year is remarkable in terms of just his performance and it’s been exciting for us. We feel like he’s a really, really exciting prospect for us that this time last year we didn’t have.”


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