31 Thoughts: Sabres juggling multiple scenarios ahead of trade deadline

Buffalo Sabres forward Taylor Hall. (Jeffrey T. Barnes/AP)

• When will Canucks play again?
• Buffalo’s Adams considering almost everything
• Where will Leafs add?

Patrick turned out to be good at the breaststroke. In fact, around age six, he was one of the best breaststrokers in his age group in the province…. But his enthusiasm was short-lived. He loved to compete, but he wasn’t crazy about swimming.

“It’s freezing cold at the pool. I want to play hockey,” he said.

— From Patrick Roy: Winning, Nothing Else by Michel Roy

“It was really cool when I read that,” 16-year-old Thomas Kiesewetter says, from his home in Massachusetts. “That someone like Patrick Roy also had a path like me.”

Four years ago, Kiesewetter made a choice. A talented swimmer, he still holds seven long-course records in the breaststroke and one in the freestyle for the Cape Cod Swim Club. But, like Roy, “I really didn’t like going to swim practice, and I always found myself so excited to get on the ice.”

His mother, Krisztina, loved watching him in the pool.

“I resisted him going full-speed into hockey,” she says, with a laugh. “I held on to the swimming, because the way he is built, he could have gone anywhere with swimming. (Thomas is a lean six-foot-six.) But he said, ‘Mom, I’m a goalie, don’t you understand?’”

“I’m glad that she saw it my way,” Thomas says. “She’s now my biggest fan.”

Krisztina came to the U.S. from her native Hungary in the mid-1990s to take an MBA at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. That’s where she met classmate Eric Kiesewetter. A significant challenge emerged as their relationship grew. She showed great character and courage in a battle with cancer, but, as a result, could not bear children.

They adopted their first child, son Teddy, from Russia in 2002.

“We were just delighted to become parents,” Krisztina said. “And we thought a family of four would be really great for everybody,” she said, so they went back for Tom, who was born in 2005.

“He was abandoned at birth, taken to the orphanage within two days. We met him for the first time at 10 months and were able to adopt him at 13 months. We’ve talked about it from the very beginning. It’s part of both boys’ identities.”

On the back of his mask are American and Russian flags.

Thomas joked that some of his teammates call him “Vlad” or “Moscow.”

The city he’s from is called Novokuznetsk. It’s also the home of Florida’s Sergei Bobrovsky and highly regarded Columbus prospect Daniil Tarasov, who just made his North American debut for AHL Cleveland.

“This is why I say I didn’t have a choice” in Thomas’s decision of hockey over swimming, Krisztina laughs. “I don’t know what is in the water in Siberia, but Bobrovsky and Tarasov are from there, and when Tom started playing hockey, he immediately went to the net. I have zero hockey background, but my kids converted me.”

“I can’t watch him. I’m a nervous wreck. At the same time, it gives me tremendous pride. I’m going to fully support his dream.”

Goaltender Brian Eklund was selected 226th overall by Tampa Bay in 2000. The highlight of his four-year professional career was starting for the Lightning in Montreal on Nov. 8, 2005 — a 3–2 Canadiens victory. In the last 15 years, he coached at Harvard, at Boston University and now with the New Jersey Devils. He also started MassCrease, a goaltending school in Massachusetts, and volunteered his time to hockey organizations.

Kiesewetter was in the under-10 age group with the Cape Cod Canal Sharks when Eklund first saw him.

“I remember going on the ice saying, ‘I think that kid’s out there in the wrong hour,’” he said. “(The coaches) chuckled and were like, ‘No, that’s Tommy Kiesewetter.’ I just remember him standing out, because he was just so much bigger than everybody else.”

When Kiesewetter devoted his athletic attention to hockey full time, he was 12.

“People looked at him like, ‘Who are you?’” Krisztina said. “He had to gain that respect. He worked to learn technique. He watched video. I started watching games, and he would tell me what I was looking at. He’d say, ‘Watch for this now,’ and — boom! — it would happen. He’s a very organized person, except for his laundry.”

“When he did decide, he was just all in,” Eklund added. “The thing that really stood out was he just didn’t want to take the easy path.”

Summer hockey doesn’t have the greatest reputation, but Kiesewetter embraced it because he needed to make up the lessons he needed to learn. He also chose to play for some teams that weren’t very good, because it meant a heavy workload. Krisztina said the first time she started getting questions about her son’s future came after a 60-save performance.

The game Thomas remembers came on Jan. 4, 2019. He made the varsity team at Sacred Heart — a high school — as a Grade Eight student. That night, the opponent was Bishop Feehan.

“We knew we were going to get crushed,” he said.

They did — 7-0.

“I remember, they had shots on goal on the scoreboard. At the end of the game it was 83. I think it was 6–0 after the second period, and I told the coaches I wanted to finish the game. I was proud I only gave up one goal in the third.”

He laughs.

“I just loved getting bombarded. It was good development, and that was a fun group of people.”

Kiesewetter had an excellent 2019–20 for Boston College High, and the prep school offers rolled in. Tony Amonte, who played 1,174 NHL games, is the coach at famed Thayer Academy — alumni including Brooks Orpik, Jeremy Roenick and Ryan Whitney.

“He told us, ‘You’re my guy,’” Krisztina said. “You’re my starter if you come here.”

“It was easy for me to say,” Amonte replied. “It was the truth, and I thought it took the pressure off him. When he’s in the butterfly, he takes up a lot of the net. His shoulders are almost at the crossbar. It’s hard not to notice him.

“He’s got an addiction with Connor Hellebuyck. Loves him. Watches him every night.”

(For the record, Kiesewetter says he likes Andrei Vasilevskiy and MacKenzie Blackwood, too.)

Kiesewetter split this season between Thayer and a club team, the Boston Junior Eagles. He works hard to keep his focus on the challenges directly in front of him, not think about what could be two or three years down the road.

But, as Eklund says, “Colleges aren’t stupid — they’re keeping tabs on where these kids are. A dozen have called me about him.”

And, last weekend, the family took a call from a team in the QMJHL.

“He’s got a lot to learn,” Eklund says. “He hasn’t played high-level hockey for six, seven, eight years like some of these kids. But he is gaining knowledge fast. Every time you see him, you see an improvement in something. His best years are ahead of him. He’s so driven that I would be floored if he doesn’t come very close to what he thinks he could end up being.”

“He doesn’t shy away,” Amonte adds. “He’ll sit in net all day and take pucks. I’ve seen him face 55 breakaways in a row in practice, and stay in the net, exhausted.”

It’s an incredible journey. An indirect path. And so far to go.

“I give my coaches so much credit,” Kiesewetter says. “If you saw me two years ago, and you saw me today, I don’t look like the same goalie. I’ve done a lot of work, but there’s still more to do.”


1. There will be more time for everyone to process their feelings, but one of the questions surrounding the Canucks is if any player/coach/staff member decides they don’t want to continue the season. It may not simply be about that individual. Brendan Sutter’s father, Brent, told Eric Francis on Monday that his son has “body aches, headaches, chills” and is concerned about wife Giselle (who is pregnant) and their two young children.

“They were just told to get into quarantine and have the wife and kids go down to the rink to get tested every day. There’s a lot to this, what the families have to do now.”

Players may not want to be traded away from their families, or even want to go on a road trip while the Brazilian variant wreaks havoc in the province. If the Canucks do resume play this season (and the hope is they will), sometime around April 16 appears the earliest it could be considered. Some who tested positive avoided symptoms, while others are thankfully recovering.

Of all the COVID-related shutdowns this season, Buffalo’s was considered harshest in terms of symptoms suffered, but this strain surpassed it. As I write this, there wasn’t anyone who needed to go to the hospital, and I have heard of just one player who needed an IV drip brought to their home (though compatriot Iain MacIntyre reported Monday it happened “in a couple of instances.”)

The NHL is treating this as if everyone is affected, even if everyone doesn’t record a positive test. So, we’ll need a few days without any new cases and, more importantly, we’ll need to see how everyone recuperates. If the Canucks need AHL re-enforcements (and that contingency is being prepared), anyone coming from Utica will need to cross-border quarantine, and the Comets returned to practice Monday after a COVID closure of their own.

2. One player saw Saturday’s report about the possibility of playoff bubbles and texted that I was trying to “scare” the players. (I’m only scary when I wake up in the morning.) It’s not what anyone wants, but it’s a conversation that will happen purely to make sure there’s a plan.

Dallas GM Jim Nill said Sunday the Stars travelling party is vaccinated, and anecdotal evidence indicates more and more American-based teams are getting there. But the Canadian clubs are behind (as is the country), so the NHL/NHLPA must discuss bubbles in case they’re absolutely necessary. (My suggestion: If you have to do it, used docked cruise ships over hotels.)

3. There’s a recognition that — just like in regular society — players and organizations are going through “COVID fatigue.” But the NHL warned its teams Saturday that it has “begun to encounter incidences of non-compliance” with protocols that have “resulted in a number of recent group and club-wide quarantines/disruptions” to routines and schedules.

“Now is not the time to relax attention,” the memo read, though no specific teams were mentioned.

Word is the league asked tough questions of the Canucks about what happened in the lead-up to the outbreak, but other teams also came under recent scrutiny. Coaches were told to wear masks properly while talking to players and/or officials, while players were discouraged from card games — told that if one player from a card game tested positive, the rest of the group would be quarantined as high-risk. It’s a grind, especially if you’re not winning.

4. The person to watch is Kevyn Adams. He’s the juggler, going through multiple scenarios both big and small. There’s a big difference between “considering” and “doing,” but I think he’s considering almost everything. And I do believe he’s listening to Jack Eichel pitches. At the very least, Adams is getting the lay of the land.

5. Otherwise on the trade front, I think it’s quieter than reporters would like. More sellers than buyers, so the buyers are playing the waiting game — hoping the sellers start sweating like the Jordan Peele GIF. Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri sitting out doesn’t mean anything is necessarily imminent, but after Riley Nash’s unfortunate injury teams will not take chances. If there’s a position I do see some action, it’s in goal.

6. Thought it was very interesting that Ottawa started Anton Forsberg in back-to-back games (6-3 over Montreal on Saturday, 4–3 loss to Winnipeg on Monday). He stopped 77 of 84. Maybe I’m too busy reading conspiracy theories, but a showcase is not impossible to believe. He’s a veteran, not expensive, and has shown great professionalism living out of a suitcase through multiple waiver claims. If the Maple Leafs decide they need a goalie?

7. Other goalie names to watch include San Jose’s Devan Dubnyk, Arizona’s Antti Raanta and possibly some of Carolina’s depth now that Petr Mrazek is back. There was a wild rumour the Hurricanes thought about Anaheim’s John Gibson, but that was shot down from multiple places. They’re comfortable with Mrazek.

8. If Toronto decides to go for a depth defender, I could see Dallas’s Jamie Oleksiak being a consideration.

9. Palmieri was with New Jersey at its Tuesday-morning skate. He and the Devils simply are not close on an extension, so we are where we are. I’m imagining a poker game with Adams, Tom Fitzgerald, Lou Lamoriello and several other GMs trying to bluff each other over the same players and similar trade scenarios.

10. I still don’t know what to make of the Bruins. Tuukka Rask is on their road trip, and they know his health better than anyone else. There’s a loyalty to their veterans, and a realization there aren’t many more years for this core. I hear them linked to Palmieri and Hall, but I’ve also heard they don’t think a rental is a good idea for the cost. Now, if they can extend someone or get someone with term, it makes more sense to me. We’ll see.

11. Underrated transaction of the week: Florida sending Vinnie Hinostroza to Chicago for Brad Morrison. It gives Hinostroza a chance to play, but it also clears cap room for the Panthers.

The two teams I’m most curious about heading into the deadline are Toronto and Florida. I believe the Maple Leafs will add; it’s just a matter of what. The Panthers, meanwhile, enter Tuesday tied atop the standings with Colorado.

I believe players decide a team’s course of action, and the players in Florida have shown they deserve to be rewarded. It’s borderline impossible to replace Aaron Ekblad, but I do think they’re considering options big and small.

After I said on Monday’s podcast that they’re going to take a big swing, a couple of sources pushed back, saying the Panthers are taking pains not to rush into anything. They’ve got some interesting decisions: Carry both Chris Driedger and Spencer Knight? Add a scorer like Hall or Palmieri? Go for D?

What I’ve heard is that they want this season’s magic to be a multiple-year thing, and won’t do anything to stupidly jeopardize that.

12. I could see Pittsburgh with interest in Scott Laughton. Remember: Philadelphia sent Mark Streit to Tampa in 2016, where he was flipped to the Penguins. (That’s awesome — the league needs teams who hate each other so much they refuse to make trades.) My sense on the Flyers is they’ve tested the market on Laughton. These things can change quickly, but the last time I checked, there hadn’t been much extension talk. I’m a huge Laughton fan, and the tough thing about Philly potentially losing him is that he loves being a Flyer.

13. I always cringe writing this sentence, but my sense is it’s very quiet in Calgary. They don’t have a ton of UFAs (Derek Ryan makes sense for Edmonton, and the two teams play on Saturday). Things can change, but I’m not hearing much.

14. Wonder if the Flames will give AHLer Adam Ruzicka a shot. He’s slowed down a little points-wise, but the soon-to-be 22-year-old centre had four straight three-point games earlier in the season. The reviews on him have been good, and it isn’t a bad idea to let the next wave get a taste.

15. Another player getting great reviews for his AHL play is Winnipeg’s Ville Heinola. More than one exec’s called him the best player north of the border. Nashville asked about him, but the Jets don’t want to do that. Kevin Cheveldayoff is another GM betting on prices dropping because there are more sellers than buyers.

16. Obviously, this is now on the backburner, but the Canucks did begin conversations with Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson. Still early in the process.

17. More than 30 players making at least $1.2 million have passed through waivers this season. That’s an incredible indicator of how tight this pandemic/flat-cap world is going to be. Alain Vigneault raised eyebrows when he said the Flyers expected Shayne Gostisbehere to clear. That wasn’t a shot at the defenceman. It was simply that the Flyers knew the market. Same with New Jersey and Nikita Gusev. I was surprised, however, that no one took a chance on Detroit’s Evgeny Svechnikov. He is available for trade.

18. I get the sense it’s been quiet around the Red Wings’ UFAs. I’m not as convinced about the Oilers and Luke Glendening, but I think there will be interest elsewhere.

19. Other situations to keep an eye on: Let’s start with Colorado. The Avalanche are atop the NHL with Florida, and are definitely looking to get even better. Things they’ve checked out include a forward with some edge; a defenceman to replace what they’ve lost in Ian Cole and the injured Erik Johnson; goaltending. Overall philosophy: we just want to make ourselves even better. Would not be a surprise if they were lurking on Palmieri.

20. Tampa: Still think the Lightning are a stealth team on David Savard.

21. Anaheim: The Ducks are looking for players between 19 and 23 who are ready to play. Those are really hard to find. I’ve heard it’s been slow around the Ducks, and we’ll see if it picks up at all.

This is purely me talking, but I wondered if Vegas would ever kick the tires on Ryan Getzlaf. From a hockey point of view, it makes sense, but I don’t see how it could ever work cap-wise. In the long run, I do think Anaheim sees Getzlaf leading its next wave of young players. Meanwhile, wouldn’t be surprised to see Vegas try a value add at centre.

22. Los Angeles: This could come down to whether or not the Kings can sign Alex Iafallo. They’ve been grinding away at it.

23. St. Louis: the wildest of wild-cards. Head coach Craig Berube said his team was “weak-minded” due to a lack of confidence following Monday’s 6–1 blasting by the Golden Knights. Berube is blunt; if you don’t want an honest answer — don’t ask the question. Suddenly, the Blues are five points out. Doug Armstrong could do anything. I’m similarly unsure about Washington, an obvious contender. Not hearing a lot about the Capitals, but I can’t see them not trying to make themselves better.

24. One week ago, Arizona GM Bill Armstrong said his players would dictate what happens. Since then, they’ve won three of four, and opened up a five-point lead (although San Jose has two games in hand). I do believe the Coyotes’ plans for this year were to accumulate as many picks as possible, but now what do you do? A couple of GMs made a good point, asking do you really think you can beat Colorado in a playoff series? My answer to that is I get it, but what kind of message is it to your fans and players if you wave the white flag while the team is playing its heart out?

25. Other situations I haven’t mentioned: I see Minnesota with a long-term view. Does it really make sense for San Jose to add? Nashville is staying in the race. Chicago is realistic about where it is. I think the Rangers are still a few months away from making their biggest decisions. As for Columbus, it’s time. Brutal for them and for Riley Nash that he’s out four to six weeks. He’d have been perfect for someone.

26. The Islanders scored eight five-on-five goals April 1 against Washington. They are the only team to do that this season. No wonder Lou Lamoriello is going for it.

27. Looking forward to seeing what Ottawa does with newly signed draftees Jacob Bernard-Docker and Shane Pinto. The Senators play Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, with a scheduled day off on Sunday. Game Monday, so first full practice Tuesday?

One of the reasons Jake Sanderson went back to North Dakota is he didn’t get “the full college experience” in his freshman year, something most of us can understand. I don’t believe Sanderson was the only prospect weighing that, either. There’s at least one other who indicated he was considering staying for the same reason, but eventually decided to come out.

Head coach DJ Smith also had high praise for Josh Norris during last Saturday’s broadcast, saying, “I’m not hiding him against anybody,” and the centre’s growth “is exponential.”

28. This weekend, NBC’s Ed Olczyk is joining son Nick and broadcast partner Andrew Smith in the booth for an ECHL game between the Indy Fuel and the Fort Wayne Komets. (Smith and Nick Olczyk are the Fuel's regular duo.)

“I told him for one night, he doesn’t have to respect his elders,” Ed said of his son.

They’re going to go viral if Nick trashes his father for poor analysis.

29. A couple of things left over from the opening story about Thomas Kiesewetter. Sportsnet’s Ken Reid is a prolific author; one of his books is entitled One Night Only: Conversations with the NHL’s One-Game Wonders. (It’s a great read.) Brian Eklund fits.

As mentioned, Eklund started for Tampa in Montreal on Nov. 8, 2005, a 3–2 Lightning loss.

“I remember a lot. It’s etched into your mind,” he said. “I remember (coach) John Tortorella looking at me and saying, ‘You’re in.’ I remember walking to the rink. I remember the nerves that hit me. I was just like, ‘Holy crap, this is really happening.’ I remember throwing a pizza up the middle on a penalty kill to (Alexei) Kovalev, him coming down on a breakaway and having to make a save.”

Tampa led 2–1 going into the third, but Craig Rivet tied it on the power play and Richard Zednik won it. Eklund stopped 16 of 19.

“Unfortunately, I remember that we lost. I felt like I held my own, but wish I could have come up with one of those (saves). At the same time, it was an experience. You have Dave Andreychuk and Vinny Lecavalier, and you look down and there’s Martin St. Louis at the end of the bench. I was like, ‘How did I end up here?’”

Eklund said one of the reasons he went into coaching was his goalie guru at the time, Jeff Reese.

“He was that mentor for me. I saw how much impact one person could make on another. It was something that really drove me to make a difference.” It’s come full circle, as one of Eklund’s star pupils, Jake Oettinger, is with Reese in Dallas.

30. Tony Amonte, coaching at Thayer Academy, would like to get into player development at the NHL level.

“I love going to the rink,” he said. “We have a new rink, and all of our kids want to be out there, learning. That’s something I’d love to do, and I’d consider everything.”

31. Tough watching Gonzaga lose the NCAA basketball final to Baylor on Monday night. One of the most popular students at York Mills Collegiate during my high school days was Claude Nembhard. He played on the basketball team, was on the student council. Everyone knew him. His part-time job was at Canada Trust, where he met his wife-to-be, Mary McCann. (Mary has a hockey connection. Her brother, Sean, captained NCAA Harvard in 1993–94. After that season, he was taken first in the now-defunct supplemental draft by the Florida Panthers.)

Their son, Andrew, is a key part of the Bulldog machine, and I wanted to see them complete the undefeated season.

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