The Buffalo Sabres have signed the first overall pick, inking Rasmus Dahlin to his three-year entry-level contract. Dahlin’s deal will almost certainly include the maximum bonuses for an ELC. Dahlin is expected to start in the NHL right away, not allowing the contract to slide at all and seeing it expire after the 2020-21 season.
After finishing in last place once again, the Sabres finally won a draft lottery and were given the chance to select a franchise-altering talent in Dahlin. The young defenseman has repeatedly shown off his skills at every level of hockey, including seeing a regular shift in the SHL and even being selected for the Swedish Olympic team. The 18-year old possesses elite puck skills and elusiveness while also embracing the physical side of the game. Though he’ll likely put on more weight and strength as he matures, Dahlin is already at a level that could make him an impact player for the Sabres this season. He’ll obviously have tough competition for the Calder Trophy, but should help Buffalo find some consistency in their own end for the first time in several years.
Even with Sam Reinhart still to sign, the Sabres have plenty of cap room to cover any Schedule B bonuses that Dahlin should accumulate. Top picks can earn up to $2.85MM in these specific bonuses for league-wide accomplishments, and though they can be carried over to the next year’s cap Buffalo looks like they should be able to pay them out this season. Of course, Dahlin would have to be among the league’s best in some category like Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid have been in previous seasons. That may be a tougher level to reach for a defenseman, though the Sabres may be quite reliant on Dahlin before long.
Heading into the season, the Sabres have players like Marco Scandella, Nathan Beaulieu, Matt Hunwick and Brendan Guhle among their left-handed options on the blue line. Even at a young age Dahlin should be able to make a bigger impact than several of those names, and could find himself at the very top of the depth chart in short order. That’s a tough task for an 18-year old stepping right into the NHL, but the Sabres should be improved after making several other additions including goaltender Carter Hutton. A roster that struggled with a lack of depth over the last few seasons lost one of their top options in Ryan O’Reilly, but added several NHL-caliber forwards to make up for him. Casey Mittelstadt and other young players should also play a big role, on what it finally a team heading in the right direction.