Author: Jason Brough

Jack Eichel

Sabres cash in their suffering, take Eichel second overall

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SUNRISE — One of the worst seasons in NHL history paid off today for the Buffalo Sabres.

With the second overall pick in the 2015 draft, the Sabres selected forward Jack Eichel, the Boston University phenom that NHL Central Scouting ranked No. 2 among North American skaters. He was ranked behind only Connor McDavid, who went to the Oilers first overall.

Eichel enters the NHL with great expectations. He’s been called a franchise player, even garnering the “generational” label, along with McDavid.

The Sabres finished the 2014-15 season with a 23-51-8 record. Their 54 points were the fewest in the league, two fewer than Arizona managed. They had the worst offense, the worst power play, the worst penalty kill, and the second-worst goals-against average. They were accused of tanking. Often.

Now it’s time to start the ascension. With Eichel, Sam Reinhart, Evander Kane, Ryan O’Reilly, Zach Bogosian, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Robin Lehner, Sabres fans may not have to suffer much longer.

Related: Get to know a draft pick — Jack Eichel

Sweeney explains Hamilton trade: ‘We extended Dougie a very significant contract offer’

Don Sweeney
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SUNRISE — First Dougie Hamilton was traded to Calgary, with nothing but draft picks coming back. Then Milan Lucic was traded to Los Angeles, for a pick, a prospect, and a backup goalie.

As the hockey world gathered inside BB&T Center for the draft, everyone wanted to know — what were the Boston Bruins doing?

The biggest mystery surrounded Hamilton, the 22-year-old pending restricted free agent whom Bruins GM Don Sweeney labeled a “foundational-type player.”

Was it the fear of an offer sheet that led Sweeney to pull the trigger on the trade with the Flames?

“I wasn’t necessarily afraid of the offer sheet,” said Sweeney. “I thought that we’d be able to get into a position to match.

“We extended Dougie a very significant contract offer, and it didn’t lead us to where we thought we’d be able to, with him being comfortable being a part of our group long-term. So that sort of changed the course a little bit.”

Sweeney was asked why he felt Hamilton, considered one of the best young defensemen in the league, wouldn’t be comfortable staying in Boston.

“We extended a long-term deal to pursue that,” said Sweeney. “I think everyone considers Dougie as a foundational-type player, and it was indicated to us that that might not be the case going forward in Boston.”

So, he wanted out?

“No, he didn’t ask out,” Sweeney insisted. “We were in a position where we felt we would be better-served to move in a different direction.”

Okay.

Despite the loss of Hamilton and Lucic, the Bruins’ expectations remain to make the playoffs.

“With our goaltending, with the core group of our guys, our strength up the middle of the ice,” said Sweeney. “We had players that didn’t score to the level they were supposed to last year.

“Are we going to continue to look to improve our club? Absolutely.”

Report: Wild win Reilly sweepstakes

2015 NCAA Division I Men's Ice Hockey Championship - Northeast Regional
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From the StarTribune’s Mike Russo:

The Mike Reilly sweepstakes are coming to an end this afternoon and unless something backfires, he will be signing with the Wild.

Russo cites sources that say Reilly will sign a two-year, $1.85 million deal (plus bonuses).

The 21-year-old Minnesota native and ex-Gopher was originally drafted 98th overall in 2011 by the Blue Jackets.

However, he opted not to sign with Columbus, thus freeing him to sign elsewhere, a la Justin Schultz in 2012 and, last summer, Kevin Hayes.

Reilly’s dad, Michael, is a limited partner in the Wild.

The Chicago Blackhawks were recently the reported favorites to sign Reilly.

Report: Coyotes may buy out Gagner

Boston Bruins v Arizona Coyotes
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From Sportsnet’s Mark Spector:

The Arizona Coyotes are seriously considering buying out the contract of Sam Gagner, which has the Toronto Maple Leafs interested.

The cash-strapped Coyotes are on the hunt for centremen, and have come to the conclusion that Gagner simply isn’t a fit. Arizona GM Don Maloney has been attempting to trade Gagner while at the NHL Draft, but chances are he would have to take someone else’s bad contract back. Maloney may settle for a buy-out at one-third of the money owed, as Gagner is still just 25 years old.

Gagner only has one more season remaining on his contract. Buying him out would save the budget-conscious Coyotes just over $2 million in salary, per Cap Friendly. Their cap hit would be around $500,000 in both 2015-16 and 2016-17.

Gagner had 15 goals and 26 assists last season, his first with Arizona after being traded by Edmonton to Tampa Bay, which quickly flipped him to the Coyotes.

It was hoped that a “change of scenery” would help the former sixth overall pick.

Related: The Coyotes need to spend some money

Tim Murray would have said you were ‘high on mushrooms’ if you’d said he could get Eichel, Kane, and Lehner for three first-round picks

Tim Murray
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Early contender for quote of the day, courtesy Sabres GM Tim Murray:

This morning, Buffalo acquired Robin Lehner and David Legwand from Ottawa, in return for the 21st pick in today’s draft.

In February, Murray swung a blockbuster trade for Evander Kane. Part of that deal included the 25th pick in today’s draft going to Winnipeg.

And, of course, the Sabres are expected in a few hours to draft Jack Eichel with the second overall pick.

Related: Day after voicing disappointment with No. 2 pick, Murray praises Eichel