The road to success has been difficult for the Buffalo Sabres, so much in fact that they haven’t finished above sixth in their division in eight years and haven’t made the playoffs since 2010-2011. However, the team appears to be heading in the right direction. Center Jack Eichel, who scored 36 goals for the Sabres last season, indicated the team did an “awesome” job this off-season.
Clearly annoyed after suffering his fifth straight losing season since coming into the league as a 19-year old in 2015-2016, Eichel thinks the moves made by new general manager Kevyn Adams has put some excitement in the team. Moves such as veterans Taylor Hall, Cody Eakin and Eric Staal will help the Buffalo Sabres both on the ice and in the locker room.
Taylor Hall, a 29-year old, has 627 games of NHL experience under his belt. He won the Hart Trophy in 2017-2018 as league MVP when he scored 93 points on 39 goals and 54 assists. Signed to a one-year contract worth $8 million, Hall joins Jeff Skinner on the left wing.
Eric Staal, acquired via trade on September 16, adds a great veteran presence along the front line. The 36-year old has scored at least 30 goals in a season six times and tallied 42 in 2017-2018 while a member of the Minnesota Wild. His presence, both in the clubhouse and on the ice will be immeasurable. The 29-year old Cody Eakin was signed for $4.5 million over two years, which is a steal in this era of the NHL. While not a star player, Eakin is a solid veteran with 586 games of NHL experience that adds depth to the center position.
Head coach Ralph Krueger plans to play Hall and Eichel together on the same line, in what could be a potent combination. Being familiar with Krueger is one of the big reasons that Hall decided to sign with the Sabres. Expect Hall to do great things in Buffalo, as the excitement level for him and the team is through the roof after the signing.
The Sabres still have a way to go to be legitimate contenders, but the off-season moves are a big step in the right direction. Perhaps the new additions will take time to mesh with the current roster, but the playoff drought in Buffalo should be over next season.