Despite the fact the Buffalo Sabres currently have a record of 16-30-8 and sit fifteenth in the Eastern Conference in terms of total standings points, there are lots of bright spots about the future of the club. The emergence of Tage Thompson as a 20+ goal scorer was certainly unexpected, Jeff Skinner appears to be returning to his thirty-goal calibre form, Rasmus Dahlin was an all-star, and the team still has three first-round selections in the upcoming 2022 NHL draft. Several of their top prospects including Peyton Krebs (three goals plus seven assists in twenty games), Jack Quinn (one goal plus one assist in two games), and JJ Peterka (0 points in two games) have even gotten tastes of NHL action. It’s also worth mentioning that Devon Levi, the twenty-year-old goalie prospect the team acquired in the Sam Reinhart to Florida trade, has an 18-8-1 record with a .951 save percentage and a 1.52 GAA in twenty-seven games played with Northeastern University this season, as the goaltender of the future could finally be in the building for the Sabres.
In addition to all of this, Sabres fans have had the opportunity to watch their 2021 #1 pick, Owen Power, showcase his talents all across the World over the last several months. At the brief 2021-22 World Juniors, Owen Power became the first defenseman in Team Canada history to record a hat-trick and recorded five points overall in the two games played in the tournament before its cancellation. Power also has three goals with twenty-four assists for twenty-seven points in twenty-six games for the University of Michigan this season, as the team prepares for their Big Ten Quarterfinals matchup against Michigan State this coming Friday. There’s been much speculation that Power signs his entry-level contract with the Sabres at the conclusion of Michigan’s season, and plays NHL games this year, which would be the most significant addition this team could make this deadline season. We feel GM Kevyn Adams will move pending-unrestricted free agents for mid-to-late round draft picks, similar to his strategy last year, dealing Eric Staal, Brandon Montour, and Jonas Johansson for two 3rd rounders, a 5th rounder, and a 6th rounder. This was in addition to the big Taylor Hall trade where he acquired a 2nd round pick plus Anders Bjork to retain half of Hall’s salary and Curtis Lazar. With all this being said, let’s discuss the assets the Sabres could move over the course of the next few weeks.
Colin Miller is quietly having a solid season playing almost twenty minutes a game for one of the NHL’s worst teams. Arguably the best asset the Sabres have on the table this deadline season, Miller has scored two goals with ten assists for twelve points in thirty-two games, with a team-high -2 +/- for Sabres who have played more than thirty games this year. At twenty-nine years old, Miller is making 3.875 million until the conclusion of this season and will be an unrestricted free agent. Although Miller has yet to register a positive individual AB season in his six-year career, his -3.82 midseason score would be his best since 2018-19. He has a career AB score of -4.49 which could improve to -4.40 if his midseason score holds. Regardless a near seven-point AB improvement in just one season is a tremendous accomplishment, and teams could be interested in Miller for as high as a 3rd round pick in our opinion.
Vinnie Hinostroza is the best AB player the Sabres have to offer, as his -0.16 is the highest AB score registered by a Sabres player this season who has played thirty or more games. He has only recorded one individually negative AB season in his six-year career and is coming off back-to-back +2.5 or higher AB seasons. Hinostroza is a +3.42 career AB player who has seventeen points (eight goals plus nine assists) for the Sabres this season. At twenty-seven years old, Hinostroza is only making 1.05 million until the conclusion of this season, where he will become an unrestricted free agent. Teams should absolutely be lining up to offer a 4th-7th rounder for Hinostroza, and this is a player we will be monitoring this situation closely for the next few weeks.
This one to us is a long shot, but multiple NHL insiders have suggested the possibility of a Victor Olofsson trade out of Buffalo. Olofsson is the team’s sixth-highest scorer, as he has potted seven goals with seventeen assists for twenty-four points in forty-four games. AB-wise, this would be his second consecutive season recording a -7 or worse individual score, and his third negative score overall in three years of data. He is set to become a restricted free agent at the conclusion of the season, as he is on the last year of the two-year, 6.1 million dollar contract he signed in October of 2020. Perhaps Sabres brass doesn’t believe Victor Olofsson is part of this team’s core going forward, and if they’re able to get a top pick or prospect for him, we believe they’d do it.
With all the bright spots we discussed earlier, and the obvious improvement of several core players under Don Granato, the team appears to be heading in the right direction, as they could be in the #1 overall pick conversation for yet another season. Maybe the team can get the opportunity to draft their Jack Eichel replacement in Shane Wright or Logan Cooley, which would certainly be a benefit to the rebuild. This is definitely a team we will be paying close attention to throughout the remainder of the season. Much more to come.