From the Dispersal Draft to now, the Sabres have sought a top-flight franchise cornerstone. They now have one in 24-year old Dylan Larkin.
Make no mistake. Jaccob Slavin, Martin Necas, Quintin Byfield, and several others are pivotal long-term players for the Buffalo Sabres. But ever since the inaugural BEARD Hockey Dispersal Draft, one key cog seemed to be missing.
The 'now'. The one guy you point to as the face of the franchise as it sits today.
Slavin is certainly the bedrock, and that's reflected in his team captaincy. Gabriel Landeskog was a star player and one-time captain, but he wasn't really the 'franchise'.
Several others have come and gone in the Sabres' brief existence in BEARD Hockey, but it was all in pursuit of the goal they finally met today.
The Sabres sent superstar (but struggling) winger Brock Boeser, along with Nolan Patrick, Kristian Vesalainen, Martin Fehervary, prospect Matias Maccelli, and Washington's first round pick in the 2021 Entry Draft to the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday night. In return, Buffalo acquired Larkin, along with winger Jake DeBrusk, Joey Anderson, and prospect defenseman Mason Lohrei.
A steep price, no doubt. Patrick had seemed to settle into a rhythm with linemates Brandon Saad and Frank Vatrano recently. Though he wasn't producing godly statistics, he was contributing and getting better at being a two-way center. Still just 22 years old, Patrick was a key asset to bringing Larkin to Buffalo.
"You have to give up assets you wouldn't normally want to in order to make a move like this," said Sabres GM Thomas Gidlow. "We have some really good young players coming up, but we didn't have that one guy down the middle yet that makes his linemates and teammates better players. Larkin is definitely that type of player."
It didn't hurt matters that Larkin is currently tied for fourth overall in BEARD Hockey scoring, with seven goals and 13 assists in 15 games. DeBrusk's 10 goals puts him fourth in that category league-wide as well. Buffalo's scoring troubles have been well documented thus far, and figure to get a solid injection with both likely to continue playing on the same line.
"They both fit each other's game so well," stated Gidlow. "That's why they were having success early on. It's up to Coach (Jim) Montgomery how they fit into the lineup, but I'd imagine they'll be together more than they are not."
Anderson figures to inject some stability into things down in Rochester as well. His 14 points thus far bodes well for possible new linemates in Byfield and Rudolfs Balcers.
In all, the Sabres still retain their youthful progression, as both Larkin and DeBrusk are well under the age for unrestricted free agency (Larkin's deal will expire while he's RFA eligible). Nine of Buffalo's 23 pro roster players are 25 or younger (only three are 30 or older), with 19-year old Ville Heinola being only one of three BEARD Hockey defenseman in the pros under 20 years of age (Moritz Seider at 19 in Philadelphia and Leo Loof at 18 in Vancouver are the others).
"We're still a young team, still building out our young core," remarked Gidlow. "Larkin is going to be a big centerpiece to that core for a long time to come."
The Sabres also announced post-deal a shakeup of the team's leadership structure. Jaccob Slavin will remain the team's captain, with Dylan Larkin assuming an alternate captain position and Jay Bouwmeester continuing as the other alternate captain. Jordan Martinook, who started the season as an alternate captain, offered his 'A' to others after he was injured and missed several games. "I think it's important that some of these guys get a little recognition for what they bring. I know what I bring, and whether I have a letter or not, it's not going to change how I play the game."