** Guest post by: Derrek Kowbel
Now that the NHL regular season has shifted to playoff mode, non-participating teams can now begin to focus on this upcoming offseason, and how they can change their fortunes. With that being said, no team has more soul searching to do than the Buffalo Sabres.
With a disgruntled Team Captain (Jack Eichel), an aging Assistant Captain (Kyle Okposo), and an overpaid Jeff Skinner (6 more years @ $9 Million + a NMC), the Buffalo Sabres need to make some serious changes.
For a team that has seemingly been engulfed in a perpetual rebuild loop, the Sabres should look no further than the blueprint plan set out by the Los Angeles Kings.A team that sold off major assets in their attempt to win 2 Cups in 3 Years (2012 & 2014), they are an organization that also understood that paying veterans for playoff performances would be costly.
The Kings were in no panic to rush the rebuild, as they played in the shadow of two championship banners hanging from the Staples Center rafters. GM Rob Blake quietly accumulated draft picks, and stockpiled prospects with the intentions of letting them develop.
There was no need to rush blue-chip prospects to the NHL, when they knew they would be sacrificing development for immediate results on a team that didn’t view itself as a contender. Lead by an elite scouting staff (and some drafty lottery luck), the Kings were able to stockpile names like Quinton Byfield, Alex Turcotte, Alex Kaliyev, Samuel Fagemo, Rasmus Kupari (and the recent promotions of Gabe Villardi& Tobias Bjornfoot). Armed with nearly $20 Million in Cap Space, the organization was well-positioned to develop their prospect pool with no pressure to promote, knowing full-well they have the ability to afford their core for years to come.
But at some point, the Kings will need to turn this prospect pool of potential into an elite juggernaut. Leaders like Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty aren’t getting any younger, and would like to push for another championship as they enter the tail-ends of their prime.
One way to kickstart this would be to find a true 1C, with elite production and a manageable cap hit. This is where Jack Eichel steps in.
The addition of Jack Eichel will allow the Kings to slot Kopitar into the 2C role, and fully embrace his 200ft game. It would also allow the Kings to shelter Quinton Byfield’s minutes in a 3C slot, while he fills out his 6’4” frame.
There is no doubt that Jack Eichel immediately makes the LA Kings a much better team. But as Kopitar’s production fades, the Kings will still need an impact player on the second line as they slow-play Byfield’s development (as he is still only 18 years old).
The Sabres Need to Shift Gears
The Kings current development curve doesn’t align with the current path of the Buffalo Sabres. To convince guys likes Ristolainen and Reinhart to say in upstate New York, the team will need to improve both now and the very near future.
Players like Turcotte (future 2C), Kaliyev (elite shooter) are both on the NHL doorstep as they refine their game in the AHL. The Kings also have five picks in the first three rounds of the upcoming draft (one that is currently a lottery pick), and a roster of stocked of young players that would fit in with the current Sabres nucleus.
I believe Eichel needs a fresh-start, and the LA Kings are one of the best suitors to make a deal happen. With organizational depth, elite prospects, and enough salary cap space to absorb Eichel’s contract, the Kings of Los Angeles should be at the front of the line for Jack.
But a deal could be reached without Quinton Byfield included.
To Los Angeles: Jack Eichel, Rasmus Ristolainen
To Buffalo: Adrian Kempe, Alex Turcotte, 1st rounder in 2021, 1st rounder in 2022
/ 8 hours ago
Well the silence is over. Zach Hyman isn't signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs....
/ 10 hours ago
The Buffalo Sabres made their choice at this year's NHL Entry Draft and selected...
/ 12 hours ago
Carey Price underwent knee surgery on Friday and a timeline was revealed for his...
/ 13 hours ago
Canucks and Coyotes make a trade involves Ekman-Larsson, Garland for multiple pieces and the...
/ 15 hours ago
If the Edmonton Oilers are seriously looking at signing Tyson Barrie, an Ethan Bear...
/ 2 days ago
Ken Holland confirms the Edmonton Oilers have signed Mike Smith to a two-Year, $4.4...
/ 3 days ago
Reports are that the Seattle Kraken have elected to go with Jordan Eberle as...
/ 3 days ago
The Seattle Kraken have not made a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning, instead,...
/ 3 days ago
The Seattle Kraken opt not to select Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price in the...
/ 3 days ago
Reports are that the Seattle Kraken have selected Jared McCann from the Toronto Maple...