NHL Rumor Mill – April 23, 2021

by | Apr 23, 2021 | Rumors | 20 comments

Check out the latest Sabres speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, John Vogl was asked if Buffalo Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula intend to sell the franchise. He said the club isn’t for sale but that hasn’t stop prospective buyers from calling. He doesn’t think the Pegulas have any plans to sell.

Could Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel get traded this summer? (NHL Images)

Asked about Jack Eichel’s contract, Vogl said the captain’s no-movement clause kicks in with the 2022-23 season. That would limit where the Sabres could trade Eichel if things reached the point where he had to be moved.

Asked if Eichel’s played his final game with the Sabres, Vogl guesses no. The clock isn’t ticking this summer on trading their captain. They can take this summer if they wish to weigh offers, see what happens with Eichel and the team next season, and decide his fate after that.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It wouldn’t surprise me if some clubs make inquiries this summer about Eichel’s availability and the asking price. Perhaps one of them will make a pitch too good to pass up. Nevertheless, we shouldn’t assume it’s a certainty Eichel will be traded unless the Sabres captain wants out.

Vogl believes the Sabres will do everything they can to re-sign Linus Ullmark. The 27-year-old goaltender is due to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Doing so could cost $5 million per season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Whether they re-sign Ullmark or look elsewhere for a starter they better find a reliable backup. Carter Hutton is a UFA and won’t be back. Dustin Tokarski is signed through next season at $725 and has looked ok in an emergency call-up role but can they depend on him over a full season? Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, 22, is in their system but might not be NHL-ready yet.

Vogl doubts there’s a viable way for the Sabres to shed the expensive contracts of Jeff Skinner and Kyle Okposo. No club except the Seattle Kraken can afford Skinner’s long-term cap space. Buying out Okposo wouldn’t make sense until 2022.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Skinner’s signed through 2026-27 with a $9 million annual average value and a full no-movement clause. Okposo’s got two more seasons left at $6 million annually and a 15-team no-trade list.

I don’t see the Kraken having any interest in Skinner even if he agreed to waive his NMC and I doubt they’ll take Okposo off the Sabres’ hands unless there’s a significant sweetener involved.

Maybe the Sabres can get creative by working out a three-way trade where they absorb half of Skinner’s or Okposo’s cap hit to facilitate a trade. However, that would still leave some significant dead cap space on the Sabres books for a long time, especially where Skinner’s contract is concerned.

The Sabres could use a skilled tough guy similar to Washington’s Tom Wilson or the Tkachuk brothers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Calgary Flames might be willing to entertain offers for Matthew Tkachuk if they decide to make significant changes to their underachieving roster.

Matthew, however, is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights next summer and I believe he’ll be only a year away from UFA eligibility. Any team interested in acquiring him this summer will want to know if he’d be interested in a contract extension. Otherwise, you risk losing him for nothing in two years’ time if he’s unwilling to accept more than a one-year contract next summer.

The Sabres could use a good right-winger. That would allow Victor Olofsson to move to his natural left side.


  1. The Sabres could use a skilled tough guy similar to Washington’s Tom Wilson or the Tkachuk brothers.

    So could every other team in the league.

    • Funny Ed, I thought the exact same thing.

  2. The Sabres have had the Midas touch over the past ten years. Everything they touch turns to mufflers. It is not through lack of effort. They’ve had numerous big trades and signings, yet nothing seems to work. It would be best if the Pegulas sell the team. They need a new direction. But no way I’d trade Eichel now. They will never get the best of a deal like that.

    • Yeah, but Howard I recall many saying the exact same thing when Ottawa dealt Karlsson!

      • Good point, but it’s not quite the same situation. Karlsson, at the time of the trade, was four years older than Eichel is now and a year away from unrestricted free agency. Eichel has 5 years left on his contract. Also, it’s way too soon to know how the draft picks and prospects Ottawa got will turn out. The trade has obviously not helped the Sharks. How much it will help the Sens remains to be seen. Although Josh Norris does look like a keeper as of now. My point is, it’s way too early to cut ties with Eichel.

      • The real win was not re-signing Karlasson at all, regardless of the return

        But Stutzle.alone was worth the trade. Forget the rest of the pieces involved.

        Karlsson is an absolute anchor contract today.
        Winner winner chicken dinner for Ottawa.

      • If buffalo wants a good return they will have to eat some of his deal. If a team takes on the whole 10 mill they will get less IMO.

        Same for Karlson, SJ will have to eat a large chunk of that contract if they ever want to make him

  3. The Sabres problem seems to be ownership, more specifically having Kim Pegula as president.

    She is also president of the Buffalo Bills, one franchise on the rise and the other a total mess.

    She either has no concept of handling a hockey franchise or just not giving it the care it needs.

    Her first move of getting rid of a capable manager in Darcy Regier and never properly replacing him has set the downward spiral that exists to this day.

    The Sabres are spending money on players but cannot overcome poor ownership/management.

  4. IMO the Sabres should build slowly and patiently from the back out. Maybe using the following steps.

    If Ulmark is good and happy sign him for 5 years.

    Trade Eichel for an extremely good D and a high draft choice.

    Make sure that number 1 overall selection D man is happy and well coached.

    Any free agents need to be mature and professional and D men. Big and defensive oriented. Guys who do it for the money and have no illusions about team success. Their experience lets them suffer 2 bad years without emotional draining.

    Decide if Ristolein ( sp ?) is coachable or not. Act accordingly.

    Try to make the team goal and pride not in winning but low goals against.

    Ignore all forwards who have any ambition until the defense sets. Then look at the front end. With luck in 3 years they make the play offs. I don’t think it will be quicker. If they try to do it quickly they will be in 3 years where they are now but will have lost 3 years.

    • Sound assessment Old Blue Dog. In other words “what you’ve done to this point has failed miserably … time to change the formula.”

      I agree, if they don’t do it with a drastic difference in approach they’ll still be spinning their wheels well down the road. Eichel, meanwhile, is NOT going to singularly drag them up the standings on his own and to stubornly hold onto him for the balance of his deal while hoping your draft picks pan out is a fool’s errand extreme.

      They’re stuck with Skinner and Okposo … may as well open up some cap room for the acquisitions of the types of players you mention by getting the best deals possible for Eichel and probably Ristoleinen.

    • Agree old blue dog. The other bigger issue is that a losing culture has been ingrained in the team. Turning something like that around will take a massive team restructuring. No player in there right mind would join that team unless there is a massive overpay or desperation because no other team wants them. Buffalo does have a tfew players of value. In the off-season trade them and try to expedite the rebuild and try your hardest to get a GM, Coach and players who will change the attitude of the team and hopefully they can start building a winning culture.

      • Agree Roger and OBD
        The culture is the people. I have been tasked with changing it in an organization. You change the problem people in the organization.
        I have no idea where the problem is in BUF.

        If it is Eichel, and I have no idea if it is, that is a good thing in a way as you can still get a return.

        If it is Skinner, you’re eating it.

        if it is MGT or coaching, easy to move on, harder to replace as who wants that gig.

        If it is ownership, you’re screwed.

  5. Personally I believe Buffalo has a very good solid young core to build on now, rather than trading them off.

    Eichel 24, Reinhart 25, Olofsson 25, Routsalainen 23, Middlestadt 22, Cozens 20, Quinn 19 up front.

    On the back end, Dahlin 21 & Ristolainen 26 with Ullmark 27 between the pipes.

    The key is to be patient. Only two of those players are north of 25 & just barely.

    The Sabres biggest issues are the contracts of Skinner & Okposo. Plus they still have another two years of paying out Cody Hodgeson who played his last game for Buffalo in the 2014-15 season. Those are the mistakes that are handcuffing them, not their young players.

    Also, they need a coach who can communicate much like DJ Smith in Ottawa. He has been able to take a very young core group & have them play to their strengthens & abilities.

    • Uwey, not without a not-so-subtle nudge from Dorion who traded away essentially useless veterans like Cobourn, Gudbranson (grit ain’t enough), Paquette, Galchenyuk and burying Peca in the minors because Smith kept trotting them out there and it showed in the early goings (12-15 games) when all they could manage were two wins.

      Now he has no choice – and the kids are responding.

  6. Okposo will end up on long term injury. If not buy him out.
    Skinner is a head scratcher

    Should be lots of tougher players available during free agency. Add 3 to make a checking line

  7. Did anyone here see an injury report for Charlie McAvoy?
    He took a puck to the face last night that looked like a Mike Tyson left hook. From first look, I thought that he may have been concussed.

    I can’t seem to find anything on his status.


    • I think he’s playing nevinsrip.
      Only announced lineup changes are Miller in, Clifton out. Rask starting.
      Making a bet?

      • Ray, No just a Charlie Mc fan. He grew up in the next town from me and we played at the same rink in Long Beach.

        I watched him play a few times when I was early for our beer league games. You could see then that he was a special talent.

      • Happy we have him.
        Got the same feeling watching Dylan Guenther with the Oil Kings last year before they shut down fans in the rink.
        That kid will score wherever he goes in the draft this year.
        Similar to Charlie in that he has the IQ, poise and jam.

  8. The 2020-2021 season has not gone the way the Sabres would have wanted in trending upward.  Goaltending was not addressed in the offseason to replace Carter Hutton.  Ralph Kreuger’s system limited players (i.e. Jack Eichel, Taylor Hall, Jeff Skinner) from producing and playing at their best.  Zemgus Girgensons, Jake McCabe, Linus Ullmark, Jack Eichel, and Kyle Okposo sustained injuries that ended their season, or kept them away through most of the season.

    The Sabres have improved after Kreuger.  The team has played better and have gelled as a unit.   Younger Sabres are stepping up to play.  Interim head coach Don Granato has done well with the roster of players he has.

    The Sabres need to move forward into the 2021-2022 season with improving the front office, selecting the next head coach, improving the scouting department, and improving the roster.  

    Improving the front office:  Jason Karmanos was hired recently as the Sabres’ Associate General Manager.  An executive to oversee hockey operations and report to ownership, Terry and Kim Pegula, is preferred.

    Head coaching search:  Don Granato could retain his position on a permanent basis if kept for a “show me what you can do” deal for an entire season.  If the Sabres want a candidate with relevant experience, they need to seek a candidate that has extensive experience as an NHL head coach, can coach the team to win quickly and often, and can coach teams into postseason play.  Bruce Boudreau, Gerard Gallant, and Claude Julien would be those candidates.  The new head coach should be in place before offseason activities commence.

    Improving the scouting department:  The Sabres laid off many scouts during the 2020 offseason.  Scouting players only with video footage is not enough and inefficient to consider future Sabres.

    Improving the roster:  The roster and the system will see changes with the Seattle Kracken’s expansion draft, the entry draft, free agency, and the desired talent the new head coach wants. 

    In pending unrestricted free agents, goaltender Linus Ullmark and defenceman Jake McCabe are high priorities to re-sign.  

    The Sabres need to shop for a goaltender.  Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen needs time to develop.  Carter Hutton walks.  Ullmark, if retained, needs to share the workload with another goaltender who can play well, make saves, and provide necessary presence in the crease.  

    Trading Eichel will not happen.  The Sabres need to retain scoring talent.  I doubt Kevyn Adams wants to lose his job by trading away a star player.