Sabres look to strengthen defense with additions of Butcher, Pysyk, Hagg

After the NHL Draft, free agency and other offseason moves, NHL.com is examining where each team stands in preparation for the 2021-22 regular season, which starts Oct. 12. Today, the Buffalo Sabres:

2020-21 season: 15-34-7, last in MassMutual East Division; did not qualify for Stanley Cup Playoffs

Key arrivals

Will Butcher, D: The 26-year-old was acquired July 28 from the New Jersey Devils, along with a fifth-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, in a trade for future considerations. Butcher scored 11 points (one goal, 10 assists) in 23 games last season. … Vinnie Hinostroza, F: The 27-year-old signed a one-year contract July 28 after scoring 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 26 games for the Chicago Blackhawks last season. … Mark Pysyk, D: The 29-year-old signed a one-year contract July 28, returning to Buffalo after being selected by the Sabres with the No. 23 pick in the 2010 NHL Draft. Pysyk, who played his first four seasons in Buffalo, scored four points (three goals, one assist) in 36 games with the Dallas Stars last season. … Craig Anderson, G: The 40-year-old signed a one-year contract July 28. He was 2-1-0 in four games with the Washington Capitals in 2020-21, spending most of the season on the taxi squad, and had two starts in the Stanley Cup Playoffs (1-1). He has played 652 games in 18 NHL seasons. … Robert Hagg, D: The 26-year-old was acquired July 23 from the Philadelphia Flyers, along with the No. 14 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft (forward Isak Rosen) and a second-round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft, in a trade for Rasmus Ristolainen. Hagg scored five points (two goals, three assists) in 34 games last season.

Video: NJD@CBJ: Butcher goes upstairs from the circle

Key departures

Rasmus Ristolainen, D: He scored 18 points (four goals, 14 assists) in 49 games and averaged 22:17 of ice time per game last season. … Sam Reinhart, F: He was traded to the Florida Panthers for a first-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft and goalie prospect Devon Levi on July 24. Reinhart led the Sabres with 25 goals and scored 40 points in 54 games last season. … Linus Ullmark, G: He signed a four-year contract with the Boston Bruins on July 28 after going 9-6-3 with a 2.63 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in 20 games last season. … Jake McCabe, D: He signed a four-year contract with the Blackhawks on July 28 after scoring three points (one goal, two assists) and being limited to 13 games last season because of a knee injury.

On the cusp

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, G: Buffalo’s goalie of the future, Luukkonen was selected in the second round (No. 54) of the 2017 NHL Draft. The 22-year-old made his NHL debut last season, going 1-3-0 with a 3.88 GAA and .906 save percentage in four starts. … Mattias Samuelsson, D: The 21-year-old was the No. 32 pick of the 2018 NHL Draft. He made his NHL debut last season and had two assists in 12 games.

What they still need

A resolution to the Jack Eichel situation. The Sabres captain has expressed frustration with the organization over a disconnect regarding their view on the herniated disk in his neck and the best way to treat it. The situation has grown contentious, with Eichel’s agents publicly expressing displeasure. The 24-year-old center played 21 games last season, scoring 18 points (two goals, 16 assists) after scoring 78 points (36 goals, 42 assists) in 68 games in 2019-20.

They said it

“We have a player under contract. We don’t feel any pressure. If there’s a deal out there that we feel is the right thing for the Buffalo Sabres that is going to help us improve, whether that’s improve right away or improve down the road, those are all the things we’d be open to. But we’re not in a position where we feel we’re just going to do something to do it. That doesn’t make any sense.” — general manager Kevyn Adams on Jack Eichel

Fantasy focus

Buffalo has two players in NHL.com’s top 250 rankings, and one is Eichel. The other, defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, looks to build off an improved finish last season under coach Don Granato. Dahlin scored 11 points (three goals, eight assists) and was minus-2 in his final 20 games after scoring 12 points (two goals, 10 assists) with a minus-34 rating in his first 36. Despite losing valuable fantasy performers in Reinhart and Ullmark and the uncertainty surrounding Eichel, Dahlin is ranked among the top 40 fantasy defensemen and could return value in late rounds. — Pete Jensen

Projected lineup

Jeff Skinner — Jack Eichel — Victor Olofsson

Anders BjorkDylan CozensTage Thompson

Rasmus Asplund — Casey Mittelstadt — Arttu Ruotsalainen

Zemgus GirgensonsCody Eakin — Vinnie Hinostroza

Rasmus Dahlin — Henri Jokiharju

Will Butcher — Colin Miller

Robert Hagg — Mark Pysyk

Craig Anderson

Aaron Dell

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