Now that the 2022 NHL trade deadline is complete, many people, including myself, would have had the Buffalo Sabres as sellers this season, and would have the chance to accumulate more draft picks and prospects. With the trade of defenseman Robert Hagg Sunday night, everything looked to be trending towards another deadline of unloading unrestricted free agents and taking on bad contracts in return for future assets. But to a lot of people’s surprise, that was not the case.
The Buffalo Sabres are only one of two teams in the entire NHL that did not make a trade on the actual trade deadline day, along with the New York Islanders. Buffalo was looking to trade UFA’s who were not going to re-sign with the team and were willing to take on big money contracts in order to meet the cap floor. The most likely names that were rumoured to be traded were defenseman Colin Miller and Will Butcher. Another defenseman who was rumored to be on the market that was dealt was Robert Hagg. Hagg was traded for a sixth-round pick to the Florida Panthers early Sunday morning, and will now have a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup with a Florida team, who just recently acquired former Flyers forward Claude Giroux.
The two forwards that were also mentioned in rumors across the league were Vinnie Hinostroza and Victor Olofsson. Hinostroza would have provided much needed depth to a cup contending team, being able to play up and down the lineup, and is a speedy asset to have. Olofsson was a bit of a wild card to be traded, but there were rumours recently that the New York Rangers poked around and did their due diligence, but nothing came close to a deal. Sabres goaltender Craig Anderson was also rumoured to be traded, but Sabres GM Kevyn Adams said that he would only trade Anderson if it were a good situation for him. Anderson, a veteran netminder who turns 41 in May, played pretty steadily for the Sabres thus far, and would have provided a must needed backup goalie to a team looking to contend.
Now, it is easy for fans to get angry and blame Adams for not trading those players away for future pieces. But, the club’s GM said that he did not want to disrupt the team chemistry they have so far and wanted to keep the locker room strong. Would trading those players and taking on contracts for picks and prospects been benificial for the team? Yes, absolutely. But at the same time, the Sabres have a boat load of draft picks in the next two years which sets them up very nicely for the future. A sixth-round pick in the next draft or in 2023 will more than likely not change the course of the team’s direction Adams and his staff have put together. I’m not saying it hasn’t happened in the past before, but with what management is trying to build and the culture they are creating, late-round draft picks should be the last thing this team needs at the moment. Craig Anderson even said he would be ecstatic if he were to remain with the Sabres for the rest of the year because he loves how close the group is. Anderson said it gave him “emotional confidence” knowing that he is this team’s No. 1 goalie right now, and that he has earned the trust from the organization and the players.
What will most likely end up happening is that the Sabres young players, including Casey Fitzgerald, Peyton Krebs and maybe Dylan Cozens, will be sent down to Rochester towards the end of the year so they can play in meaningful playoff games for the Rochester Americans, Buffalo’s AHL affiliate. Playing in those type of games will be very beneficial to the development and the mindset of those players being sent down, and for the prospects that are currently down there looking to make the jump to the NHL.
While this trade deadline wasn’t as active as its been for the Sabres in recent years, the non moves by management show that this team is a very close knit group, building chemistry that is crucial for any team looking to re-build and contend in the coming years. By next season, the Sabres are not expected to make the jump to the playoffs, but at the same time, I firmly believe that the years of the Sabres being sellers at the deadline are fading and fading quickly. They’re trending in the right direction.