The Buffalo Sabres have an advantage that many recent winners of the Stanley Cup could only dream of. Over the last decade, the Chicago Blackhawks had a dominant Norris Trophy-caliber defenseman in Duncan Keith. The Los Angeles Kings won two championships with Drew Doughty as a cornerstone on the blueline. Pittsburgh had a centerpiece top-pairing defenseman in Kris Letang for one of their two Cup victories. Washington had the offensively gifted John Carlson, Tampa won a pair of championships with Victor Hedman dominating at both ends of the ice, and Colorado had Cale Makar leading them to their first Cup in 26 years.
The Sabres have a pair of defensemen with that level of talent in 23-year-old Rasmus Dahlin and 20-year-old Owen Power, top overall picks in the 2018 and 2021 NHL Drafts, but for Buffalo to be able to achieve the level of success that the Hawks, Kings, Penguins, Capitals, Lightning, and Avalanche have reached, GM Kevyn Adams will have to get both young blueliners signed to contract extensions this summer.
RASMUS DAHLIN, WE ARE NOT WORTHY 🥵 pic.twitter.com/ea3TePXaOj
— NHL (@NHL) April 8, 2023
Dahlin Set For Big Payday
Dahlin reached a career-high 73 points (15 goals, 58 assists) in the second year of a three-year, $18 million bridge deal last season, and is eligible to sign a contract extension on July 1. Adams likely is looking to be proactive and sign the Swede to a long-term extension before he puts up another big offensive year and inches closer to free agency, but at this point, a seven-or-eight-year max contract could cost the Sabres in excess of $9.5 million per season that teams are paying Zach Werenski, Seth Jones, Charlie McAvoy, and Adam Fox.
Adams may be preparing for that cost since there seems to be a hesitancy on the part of Buffalo to dip seriously into the free agent or trade market and more of a focus on internal development.
Owen In A Power Position
Power potentially is where the Sabres have a bigger quandary down the line. After burning the first of his three-year entry-level contract at the end of the 2021-22 season, The Toronto native scored 35 points (4 goals, 31 assists) in his first full season and was nominated for the Calder Trophy. Adams undoubtedly would like to follow the same pattern he used by getting Tage Thompson, first-rounder Dylan Cozens, and Mattias Samuelsson signed on team-friendly deals, but that would mean getting Power to trade a higher salary for long-term security.
Owen Power, shootout king 👑 pic.twitter.com/IlR3jP5nWv
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) April 11, 2023
If he opts to go the same route as Dahlin and sign a two-or-three-year bridge deal, it will not save the Sabres much in cap space and it will potentially set up Power for a much bigger payday in three or four seasons when Buffalo is hopefully a contender for the Cup.