Kevyn Adams maintains offseason is 'incomplete.' So what happens after Skinner buyout?


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Any time you listen to Kevyn Adams speak, you can always get at least one prominent talking point out of the chat. Agree or disagree as you see fit, but the Sabres’ general manager knows what agenda he wants to push.

I’ve rarely gotten the sense Adams says much on a whim. Most of his words are calculated and that’s why it behooves you to listen closely.

So Adams wasn’t talking in circles at the Sphere when he gave his main takeaway Saturday following the NHL draft, which concluded in fast-forward style after an ungodly 8:30 a.m. Pacific time start.

“The offseason is still incomplete. There’s still time to do different things,” Adams said pointedly. “And that’s where we’ll go to work on in the next few days here.”

Sabres General Manager Kevyn Adams said there's still time to do different things to improve the roster for next season. Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News

Here’s my bottom line: This week has been a disappointment and Adams has a lot of work to do.

The Sabres can’t just run it back like they did last year. Beck Malenstyn, acquired Saturday from Washington for a second-round pick, is a nice pickup for the fourth line. He drove the Rochester Amerks crazy during the 2023 East final against Hershey and then led the Caps in hits last season.

“When he hits, he hits hard,” Adams said.

Malenstyn might be taking the place of Zemgus Girgensons but that’s not a marquee move. Adams insisted he was aggressive and involved but didn’t pull off anything else.

So with no big deals, specifically nothing sewn up for Carolina winger Martin Necas, I asked Adams at the tail end of his 8-minute media briefing if the lack of a major trade precluded a buyout of Jeff Skinner because the buyout window closes Sunday.

Bad assumption. Glad I asked.

Adams revealed that the process of buying out Skinner was started Saturday morning and would be completed by Sunday. A $9 million player is thus sent off to the land of Ville Leino and Cody Hodgson.

There’s risk here for sure, but buying out Skinner is not a problem in my eyes. He’s not a Lindy Ruff player at all. While you might argue Ruff figured out a way to get a more balanced game out of Maxim Afinogenov back in the day, it’s unlikely Skinner could buy in that way.

Skinner has been a popular figure in the dressing room and you can probably book him for 25 goals, but the reality is he’s not a winning player. He’s the only NHLer in history to play 1,000 career games and not make the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That’s on him. Carolina prospered as soon as Rod Brind’Amour got him off the team and the Sabres have continued to suffer.

Another point: Adams is clearly rankled at Skinner for refusing to waive his no-move clause, because the GM made it pretty clear here he had a deal in place for Skinner that the player nixed.

In Skinner’s defense, why should he waive it? He got the clause foolishly gifted to him by Terry Pegula and former GM Jason Botterill, and isn’t going to drop it so the Sabres can send him to a rebuilding team like San Jose or Chicago. Nor does he want to go far away from his suburban Toronto home to a place like Seattle, which is looking for offense and has Botterill in the front office as an assistant GM.

The Sabres now have just over $31.7 million in cap space for next season. They saved roughly $7.5 million for 2024-25 on the buyout but there will be some pain in the middle of the six-year buyout package, notably that $6.4 million hit in 2026-27.

But what does Adams care about that? He’s got to win now or that’s somebody else’s problem.

Helenius is a two-way center who wins faceoffs, and don't kneejerk that he's another another first-round Smurf. After watching Zach Benson for the last year, shouldn't it be obvious that the size of the heart is more important than the size of the body?

As the opening of free agency looms on Monday, we know the Sabres talked to Patrick Kane last season and are expected to circle back to the South Buffalo native again. I would imagine the Sabres are also thinking about Steven Stamkos, although the chatter here was a lot about the Tampa Bay captain going to Detroit in the wake of Saturday’s news that all of the Lightning’s trades here were intended to create cap space for a run at Carolina’s Jake Guentzel and not their longtime franchise icon.

Still, you should remember in 2016 that the Sabres were in the room with Stamkos as a growing team that was close to his suburban Toronto home. But eight years is a long time in hockey and in life. At 34, Stamkos is now a two-time Stanley Cup champion and the Sabres are now a playoff outsider 13 years running.

It’s hard to imagine free agents signing here, given recent history. But maybe someone will want to come play for Ruff. Maybe the Sabres will throw some of their massive cap space at somebody. Maybe Adams will figure out the right package to get Carolina to bite on Necas. It sure seems like Friday’s drafting of Konsta Helenius in the first round might make a top prospect like Noah Ostlund expendable.

The fanbase is a boiling pot of negativity right now, and with good reason. Ruff is viewed as a conquering hero and a major upgrade over Don Granato, who didn’t suddenly forget how to coach after a 91-point season. But the fire-the-coach campaign is now gone and all eyes are on the GM.

The offseason may be incomplete and there’s nothing to say you can’t make a trade in August or even early September before training camp starts. But Adams needs to swing big and connect in the next few days. Monday’s start of free agency would be a good time to start, whether he wraps up a deal or makes a surprise signing.

Doing nothing simply isn’t an option anymore.