The Buffalo Sabres began their rebuild on Friday by moving out blueliner Rasmus Ristolainen to the Philadelphia Flyers, selecting University of Michigan defenseman Owen Power with the top overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft and Swedish winger Isak Rosen with the 14th pick in the first round acquired from the Flyers.
On Saturday, the Sabres continued their transition by trading forward Sam Reinhart to the Florida Panthers for prospect goaltender Devon Levi and a conditional first-round pick in 2022. According to The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun, Florida’s first-rounder is lottery-protected, so if the Panthers pick ends up in the top 10 next year, Buffalo would get their top pick in 2023.
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Reinhart, 25, was selected second overall in the 2014 NHL Draft, led the Sabres with 40 points (25 goals, 15 assists) in 54 games last season, and has scored 20 goals or more in five of his six seasons in Buffalo, but similar to Ristolainen had one year left to go before qualifying for unrestricted free agency and was unsure of wanting to return to the club after another last place finish.
Levi was selected 212th overall by the Panthers in 2020 out of the Junior A Carleton Place Canadiens and was the primary starter for Team Canada at the 2021 IIHF World Junior, going 6-1-0, with a 0.75 GAA and .964 save percentage and winning gold. The 19-year-old is committed to Northeastern University.
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The Panthers are well-stocked between the pipes with veteran Sergei Bobrovsky under contract for another five seasons and 2019 top pick Spencer Knight turning pro and starting in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season.
The Sabres appear to be looking to Levi for organizational depth between the pipes. Top prospect netminder Ukka-Pekka Luukkonen is only 22, but has been injury-plagued since turning professional in 2019, including missing six months after hip surgery and an ankle injury that ended his 2021 campaign.