Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) – Buffalo Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams updated the media on Thursday on the team's status with Jack Eichel, as well as the latest with the signings made in NHL Free Agency.
As far as the captain goes, Adams said there's still not been any changes on the medical side of things.
"We’re continuing to have a lot of conversations with teams, but what’s clear is we’re in control of this process," the general manager said during his press conference. "We have a player under contract, we don’t feel any pressure. We’re not in a position where we feel that we’re just going to do something to do it.
“We have to get this right. We have to stick with the plan of building this out with the young core.”
Adams said on Friday night following the first round of the 2021 NHL Draft that if Eichel was here for training camp, he’d have no problem with that. Even though that could cause a huge distraction, Adams didn’t back down.
“We have players that are on our team under contract and we are not going to do something that we don’t think makes sense for our franchise. I’m not worried about a distraction," Adams said. "I’m worried about doing what’s right for the Buffalo Sabres, so I take the emotion out of it. We look at what is best moving forward, and if there’s something that makes sense, we’ll do it. I feel very strongly about that.”
Linus Ullmark signed a four-year, $20 million contract with the Boston Bruins on Wednesday, leaving the Sabres without a starting goalie. Adams wasn’t prepared to meet the Bruins' price to overpay Ullmark.
“We had a lot of discussions with Linus and his agent, and he chose to go in a different direction," Adams said. "I felt we made a strong offer, but what we weren’t going to do was go beyond where we were comfortable.
“We have to maintain flexibility with our roster, so we needed to stay disciplined. We felt where we got to we were comfortable, and he made a decision to go a different direction, so then we pivoted.”
As soon as Aaron Dell got a two-way deal from the Sabres on Wednesday, I immediately thought the Sabres were going to give Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen every opportunity to earn the job in training camp.
"We want to make sure that guys like 'UPL' [Luukkonen] that when they’re ready, they have the opportunity, so that played into it," Adams said.
Adams did stress that he’s not going to rush any of his players.
“We have no timeline on 'UPL,'" he said. "If we feel he’s ready to go, we don’t want to hold him back. But everything has to be earned.
“We need to provide an opportunity for these players to learn how to play in critical moments. We need to get those core young players into the community, connecting with our fans. If you go into free agency and get emotional and you get away from your plan and you sign someone and maybe you give extra term just because you want to do something, then maybe you’re taking a little step forwards, but you’re ultimately taking a step backwards.”
When it comes to the players that stepped up last season, they’re going to get a huge opportunity under Don Granato this season. Adams said it’s essential for them to figure out what’s there.
“We have to identify the players that we are going to move forward with, have success with and then we make sure we take care of that from a contractual standpoint and then we move forward,” he said.
As Adams said on WGR Sports Radio 550 back on June 4, they’ve been talking with Rasmus Dahlin’s agent and he said he’s open to any type of term.
The Sabres signed a big tough guy in free agency in John Hayden, trying to help guys like Dahlin play more freely. For me, a guy like Nick Ritchie is much better suited for the role, because he’s tough and can play the game well.
“Of course those are guys, but we have to look at what does it take to sign certain players with term and dollar," Adams said of Ritchie. "There are certain players you’d love to have, but does it make sense with where we are now or three years down the road?”
Adams did maintain that they need to add some toughness to the team, which has practically none.
“When you look at a roster construction, you have to put players in a position that they excel," Adams said. "But there are also certain players with what they bring they make people a little braver. They give people a little more room on the ice. I know the game is so much different, but it still is a tough game. The difference in the game now is it's just about competing, not fighting.”
In Ritchie’s case, I’d have no problem with a six-year deal for a 25-year-old who weighs 225 pounds and is productive.
***Photo: Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres)