Reinhart’s one-year deal part of a ‘prove-it’ season for Sabres

Reinhart's one-year deal part of a 'prove-it' season for Sabres
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In the short term, the Buffalo Sabres settled things with Sam Reinhart, signing him for one year at $5.2 million. Before anything else, the Sabres avoided going through salary arbitration with Reinhart, who is 24.

Sometimes, you can look at such decisions in a vacuum, and this post will touch on Reinhart alone. But the more interesting picture comes into focus when you zoom out. You see, this isn’t just a “prove it” season for Reinhart, but for many other Sabres. Really, you could argue that the 2020-21 NHL season is a “prove it” campaign for the franchise as a whole.

Sabres sign Sam Reinhart: one year, $5.2 million

First, let’s get into the Reinhart deal.

It’s easy to see why this contract makes sense for the Sabres and Reinhart. From Buffalo’s perspective, they save a little money (some expected Reinhart to sign for more). That could be quite relevant if the financial landscape leans toward a worst-case scenario.

But the Sabres also get the chance to grab more intel on Reinhart before committing to term.

Once Sabres fans get past the idea that they could have drafted Leon Draisaitl at second overall in 2014 instead, it’s clear Reinhart’s been producing. Reinhart scored 22 goals or more in four of his five full NHL seasons. He managed 50 points in just 69 games in 2019-20, which would translate to almost a 60-point season. That would put last season just a touch behind his 2018-19 peak, when Reinhart scored 65 points.

Yet, when you dig deeper, it’s tougher to determine how much of that is based on playing with Jack Eichel vs. Reinhart being a difference-maker to the point of commanding a huge, long-term contract. As John Vogl noted for The Athletic (sub required), Reinhart benefited the most from Eichel elevation.

During the past two seasons, Reinhart has skated with Jack Eichel for 1,875 minutes at even strength. The next center on the list is Evan Rodrigues, who had Reinhart’s services for just 213 minutes, according to Natural Stat Trick.

When you isolate for Reinhart’s individual impact, well … let’s just say you might want to get a look at how Reinhart might fair with, say, Eric Staal instead of Eichel. Consider how average Reinhart’s Hockey Viz isolated impact chart looks:

Reinhart's one-year deal part of a 'prove-it' season for Sabres Hockey Viz
via Hockey Viz

Mind you, this isn’t to say that Reinhart is “bad.” Instead, it’s a matter of determining how good he is.

So, the Sabres get a chance to evaluate Reinhart some more. Reinhart, meanwhile, could set himself up to make a ton of cash. While he’s eligible to be an RFA again after 2020-21, he’ll only be a year away from UFA status. If the Sabres want to keep him, they’d likely need to pay big.

Reinhart could really rake it in if the Sabres take off in 2020-21, especially if he hits the jackpot with Eichel and Taylor Hall as his linemates. Which is a reasonably nice segue to …

A “prove it” year for many Sabres; still some work to do with RFAs

If you believe that greed can be a big motivator for on-ice results, then the 2020-21 Buffalo Sabres could be a fascinating test subject.

It’s not just Reinhart who could see a big gain or drop in money depending upon how the coming season unfolds. Most obviously, Taylor Hall is banking on a huge year to land the long-term contract he likely craves. Whether that’s with the Sabres, or perhaps a more established contender.

Maybe it just boils down to acknowledging uncertainty, but new GM Kevyn Adams hasn’t shackled the Sabres with too much risky term.

In landing Eric Staal in what looks like a great trade, the Sabres commit to the remaining one year and $3.25M Staal generously accepted from the Wild. (Ouch, hopefully Staal’s not too burned by that.)

Along with Staal, Hall, and now Reinhart, Brandon Montour is only on the Sabres’ books for 2020-21. Now, not every short commitment is ideal. Chances are, the Sabres might save money if they extend Rasmus Dahlin now, rather than after a potentially potent contract year to close out his rookie contract.

Look up and down that Sabres’ roster and you’ll see players who will have a lot to prove next season.

Will Carter Hutton bounce back after noting vision troubles in 2019-20? He’s only signed through 2020-21, and Linus Ullmark still lingers as an RFA. Maybe the Sabres will want to keep Victor Olofsson, another RFA, on the books for longer than one season. Then again, maybe Buffalo needs to see if Olofsson can really replicate that breakout from last season, when he scored 20 goals and 42 points in just 54 games?

The option of a Plan B: trade deadline selling?

From Matt Moulson to Kyle Okposo to Jeff Skinner, the Sabres can scroll down a long list of long-term contracts that came back to burn them. It makes sense that Buffalo wants to tread lightly before handing out more of them.

It also gives the Sabres a chance to pivot if 2020-21 unfortunately looks a lot like other recent, disappointing seasons.

Sure, Taylor Hall’s one-year, $8 million deal features a no-movement clause, but if the Sabres stink, he’ll want to latch onto a contender. The NMC really just gives Hall power to choose where he goes.

You don’t see players like Reinhart traded often, but who knows? Maybe the Sabres could inflate his value, trade him before they really need to pay up, and come out on the better side of a deal?

That’s not overly probable, yet the point is that Adams gives the Sabres options and flexibility by not backing the team into additional corners. He can only do so much about past mistakes, but the most important thing is to learn from them.

And, yes, ideally start winning.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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    Bruins set NHL record with 12 straight home wins to start season

    Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
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    BOSTON — The Boston Bruins set the NHL record for most home victories to start a season with their 12th straight, topping the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime with a power-play goal from David Pastrnak.

    The Bruins broke the mark of 11 that was set by the 1963-64 Chicago Blackhawks and equaled by the Florida Panthers last season.

    “That felt awesome,” Bruins first-year coach Jim Montgomery said. “We talked about it after the second (period) going into the third. There’s been a lot of great teams in this league and you’re able to set a precedent, break a record. It’s pretty special and it doesn’t happen if those guys don’t believe in themselves like they do.”

    Boston, which trailed 2-0 late in the second period, tied it with 9:33 left in regulation when David Krejci scored his second of the game on a shot from the right point.

    “It’s never fun being down going into the third, you’re sitting in here (in the locker room) trying to figure it out,” Krejci said. “You want to come out and do the job, something special on the line. It’s hard to win in this league. To get 12 in a row at home is pretty special.”

    In overtime, Carolina was playing shorthanded after being called for too many men on the ice when Pastrnak one-timed a pass from Brad Marchand inside the far post from above the left circle.

    “It was a big win for us, obviously, coming from behind,” Pastrnak said.

    Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Stefan Noesen each scored a power-play goal for Carolina, and Pyotr Kochetkov made 38 saves. The Hurricanes lost their fifth straight.

    In a rematch of last spring’s opening-round playoff series that the Hurricanes won in seven games, Carolina shutout the NHL’s highest scoring team for nearly two periods and jumped ahead a pair of power-play goals in the opening period.

    “We took too many penalties. That’s hurting us right now,” Kotaniemi said. “I think 5-on-5 we’re doing a really good job. We started good tonight and couldn’t keep that up.”

    Boston’s tying goal was originally disallowed because of goaltender interference on Nick Foligno but overturned on a coach’s challenge after it was ruled that he was nudged into the crease by Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce.

    Boston starting goaltender Linus Ullmark made 28 saves but had to leave with 13:03 left in the third period with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Teammate Connor Clifton had jumped on him to block a shot during a scramble. Jeremy Swayman made six stops in relief.

    Carolina’s Noesen scored at 6:34 in to make it 1-0. And with five minutes left in the period, Kotkaniemi collected the puck near the side of the net after Seth Jarvis‘ shot bounced off the back glass and slipped it inside the post at 15:05.

    Krejci scored for Boston with 31 seconds left in the second.

    Boston came in with a league-high 82 goals in 20 games (4.10 per game), but it was held to relatively few chances despite getting a 5-on-3 power-play advantage early on.

    TAKE NOTE

    The Bruins honored captain Patrice Bergeron, who recorded his 1,000th career point when the team was on the road against Tampa Bay, with a message on the Jumbotron. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

    Bergeron became just the fourth Bruin to reach the mark, joining Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (1,506), Johnny Bucyk (1,339) and Phil Esposito (1,012).

    UP NEXT

    Hurricanes: Host the Calgary Flames.

    Bruins: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    Predators postpone 2 games due to Nashville water main break

    Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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    NASHVILLE, Tenn. —  The Nashville Predators postponed two home games because of a water main break that soaked their downtown arena.

    Hours after the Predators decided they couldn’t play against the Colorado Avalanche, the team announced it also postponed the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Makeup dates for the two games will be announced later.

    The NHL said the water main break that occurred “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

    Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

    “We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

    Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store. The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

    The Predators’ next home game is now scheduled for Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks.

    The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They also had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

    Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

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    ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

    Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

    The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

    Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.

    Toronto’s Morgan Rielly placed on long-term injured reserve

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    TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs placed defenseman Morgan Rielly on long-term injured reserve with a knee injury.

    Rielly was hurt in a collision with with New York forward Kyle Palmieri early in the third period of Toronto’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Islanders at home.

    Rielly has no goals and 16 assists in 20 games this season and is averaging 23 minutes of ice time.

    Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said following practice that the 28-year-old Rielly doesn’t need surgery, adding there’s no firm timeline for his return beyond the minimum 24 days and 10 games required for going on long-term injured reserve.

    Toronto’s defense is also missing Jake Muzzin with a neck injury and T.J. Brodie with an injured oblique.