Buffalo Sabres fans may be looking to avoid watching the Stanley Cup Final between the Florida Panthers and Vegas Golden Knights to not see their former players skating around the ice with something their club has failed to win in their 53 years of existence, but Buffalo’s future has mostly been built on what GM Kevyn Adams was able to get in exchange for ex-Sabres who did not succeed in Blue and Gold.
The Panthers have five former Buffalo players on their roster in Sam Reinhart, Brandon Montour, Eric Staal, Casey Fitzgerald, and Zac Dalpe. Vegas has three in Jack Eichel, William Carrier, and Brayden McNabb.
Jack Eichel is making the most of his first #StanleyCup Playoff run 👊@EJHradek_NHL and @Hartsy43 break down how he's helping the @GoldenKnights win games. #UKnightTheRealm | #VegasBorn pic.twitter.com/Nto8YRXX73
— NHL Network (@NHLNetwork) May 25, 2023
McNabb was traded to Los Angeles after playing for parts of two seasons with Buffalo, and both he and Carrier were claimed by the Golden Knights in the 2017 Expansion Draft. Dalpe played 21 games in the Sabres 2015 tank season. Staal was traded to Montreal in March 2021 for a third and fifth-round pick, and Montour a couple of weeks later to Florida for a third-round pick. Fitzgerald was claimed off of waivers by the Panthers and has only played five NHL games since January.
McNabb and Carrier have become solid players and part of two Cup Final squads in Vegas, Dalpe and Staal contributing depth forwards in Florida, the only player that the Sabres were short-changed on was Montour, who was misused similarly to Rasmus Dahlin under former Buffalo head coach Ralph Kreuger and has blossomed under Paul Maurice with a career-high 73-point regular season and six goals in the playoffs.
Holding Out For The Big Return
Adams faced a difficult situation in the summer of 2021, with Reinhart one year away from unrestricted free agency and clearly indicating to not being amenable to re-signing with a club that had missed the postseason in each of his six seasons in Buffalo. Eichel similarly had grown frustrated with the club’s lack of success and the final straw came when he could not get club approval for a surgical procedure for a neck injury that caused him to miss 35 games in 2021.
Sam Reinhart deserves way more love as a player. All he does is win battles, get open, and make plays. He's having one hell of a postseason pic.twitter.com/48MFEb0v9u
— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) May 29, 2023
The Sabres dealt Reinhart to Florida in July for their 2022 first-round pick (Jiri Kulich) and a prospect goalie named Devon Levi. Kulich is a top-end prospect after playing with AHL Rochester and scoring 24 goals as an 18-year-old rookie, while Levi is expected to be the club’s #1 goaltender next season. After holding off for the best deal until November, Adams dealt Eichel to the Golden Knights for winger Alex Tuch, center Peyton Krebs, and a 2022 first-round pick (Noah Ostlund).
Tuch posted a career-high 36 goals last season, Krebs had 26 points in his first full season in Buffalo, and Ostlund played a full season as an 18-year-old in the SHL and played for Sweden in the 2023 World Junior.
Sabres fans will not enjoy the sight of Eichel or Reinhart hoisting the Cup over their heads, but the players brought back in deals for both may be part of their success over the next few years.