Trading Sam Reinhart- By Hank
Sam Reinhart is a quiet player. A lot of his best qualities are not flashy attributes typically seen on top-10 videos and he does not often have electric plays that elicit a gasp from the crowd. What Reinhart does provide is a solid two-way presence either at center or on the wing. It is fitting then that although Sam Reinhart refused to commit to a future in Buffalo this week during his press availability, that news was overshadowed by similar comments made by Jack Eichel. Quietly producing is kind of his thing, and in this case, quiet news is what he was producing.
With Reinhart entering his final season as a restricted free agent, the Sabres now must figure out what to do with the seemingly disgruntled (center?) Can he officially be called a center again? The Sabres sure hope they can call him a center and that’s thanks to interim coach Don Granato who finally did the thing fans have been longing to see for years. To make things even better, during his tryout at center his time he did not have to play with Benoit Pouliot and Seth Griffith. Dobber’s Frozen Tools, a website that tracks line combinations, has his most common wingers as Jeff Skinner and Victor Olofsson. Say what you will about Olofsson at even-strength, that is, uh, better. Way better.
Things went well for Reinhart as a centerman and suddenly Sabres fans were dreaming of a depth chart of Eichel, Reinhart, Dylan Cozens and Casey Mittelstadt all playing center. That looks – shall we say – less likely after a clearly miserable Reinhart made it known that he is, well, miserable. Before we get into what to do with the guy though, let’s take a look at Reinhart’s stats over the past three seasons during which he’s played both center and wing:
3-year average: .75, or 61.5 points per season
2018-2019: 22 goals
2019-2020: 26 goal pace
2021: 37 goal pace
3-year average: 28 goals
2021 – 22 assist pace
2019-2020 – 40 assist pace
2018-2019 – 43 assists
Three-year average: 35 assists
That is a very solid player. His advanced defensive metrics are solid as well. So what to do with a guy who produces? The Sabres could offer him a deal, but would Reinhart have any interest in taking a deal from the Sabres after they have given him two separate bridge deals? Reinhart can simply take a one-year deal from the Sabres this year and walk away clean next offseason and test free agency at the age of 27. To Reinhart and his agent, this must seem like a very appealing idea: spend one more year in Buffalo and then cash in as a free agent next year while still in the prime of his career.
So that brings us to scenario two: trade. This is the more likely of the scenarios at this point. It is well-known that as a native a British Columbia, Reinhart would like to play closer to home in Vancouver* (*citation unavailable. You’re just going to have to take my word for it). For the Sabres to maximize a trade, they’re going to want to send Reinhart to a place where he would be interested in signing a long-term extension. The three trade proposals below are comprised of destinations in the pacific northwest or thereabouts.
This is most likely Reinhart’s preferred destination and I’m sure Vancouverites (had to google that one) would love to see the return of a native son. So now the matter of getting a deal done with a Vancouver franchise that has a tight cap a team that isn’t very good. This is a spot that is very familiar to Sabres fans. So to make this work, we have to massage the cap and still return quality young pieces to Buffalo. The first piece coming back is Nils Höglander. The skilled winger is a quality prospect and at 20 years old, he’s only cracking the surface of his NHL career. This season (his rookie year, he amassed 26 points in 52 games). Pretty, pretty good. Now the salary part. The Sabres are going to have to take some medicine and acquire veteran Tanner Pearson with his $3.75 million cap hit. It is what it is. The Sabres will also acquire a conditional pick in the 2022 NHL draft, contingent on Reinhart’s re-signing. This trade sees the Sabres get the biggest return of any of the three packages on the assumption that Vancouver has the most interest in Reinhart.
Final Vancouver deal: Sam Reinhart for Höglander, Pearson and Vancouver 2022 2nd round pick (becomes a 1st round pick contingent on Reinhart signing a multi-year deal).
It’s closer to Vancouver than Buffalo, so that’s good for Reinhart. 10 hours or so away, if my googling is correct. We’re going to make this super easy: Reinhart for Matthew Tkachuk. Skill for truculence. All done here.
I struggled with this one because even with Reinhart now established as a capable center, I just can’t see Seattle giving up a top-5 pick for Reinhart and that’s really all the Kraken can offer at this point considering they have no prospects and Reinhart is worth more than a 2nd round pick. But, perhaps if Seattle can launder some bad money through the trade and get something in the process, it is more feasible. So here we’ll get a bit tricky and go with the always-fun, 3-way trade:
Edmonton (had to keep this all in the west) trades James Neal and their 2021 1st round pick to the Seattle Kraken for future considerations. Seattle trades James Neal and the Seattle 1st round pick to Buffalo for Sam Reinhart. Essentially, Seattle drops 20 or so places in the draft to pick up Sam Reinhart.
Final Deal: Sam Reinhart for Kraken 2021 1st round pick and James Neal.
The Sabres have avoided making hard decisions with Reinhart for years by consistently giving him short contracts and now something drastic has to be done. Any one of those three trades resets the Sabres timeline and allows the Sabres to change out some bad energy that is following the franchise around (through no fault of Reinhart). It’s simply time to move on and collect the best return possible.