Rasmus Dahlin is officially a Buffalo Sabre, the team announced this morning. Buffalo wasted little time in signing their prized draftee, as he inked a standard, three-year entry level deal to officially become a member of the team.
“To sign an NHL contract has been my dream since I started (playing),” Dahlin said in Swedish on his Instagram. “Now I’ve done it in Buffalo, it couldn’t be better.”
Whether it’s lip service or genuine, Dahlin has taken every opportunity to express his excitement to be in Western New York. He is being hailed as the best defensive talent to come along since Erik Karlsson and has also been likened to Hall of Famer Niklas Lidstrom, hefty comparisons indeed. The 18-year-old has demonstrated that he has the ability to live up to those expectations, but Sabres fans need to remember his age and that he will have his growing pains like every other youngblood. As seen at his introductory press conference, Dahlin will don no. 26, worn in the past by Sabre greats Derek Plante and Thomas Vanek.
The legendary Gilbert Perreault was present when the Swede put his name on the paper, talk about an endorsement.
Perreault and Pierre Turgeon are the only other players to be taken first overall by the Sabres (1970 and ’87, respectively).
Jack goes down six
Jack Eichel wore no. 9 for his Hobey Baker winning freshman year at Boston University and no. 11 for the United States National Development Team but neither was available upon joining the Sabres in the summer of 2015. Evander Kane had already taken 9 when he arrived that February and 11 is retired in honor of a certain Hall of Famer pictured above.
As a result, Eichel went with the jersey he was handed when Buffalo selected him, 15. He has made the jersey his after just three seasons and its tough to envision any other player in the team’s history that has worn it. However, if Eichel’s name is ever raised to the rafters at KeyBank Center, 15 will not be the number below it.
When the Sabres traded Kane to San Jose in February, 9 became available once again. Eichel announced on his Instagram this past Friday that he’s taking it back.
“For a long time, the number nine has always been a part of my identity as both a person and as a player,” he in a press release. “The opportunity opened up to switch and I felt it was the right time to make the change as I begin the next phase of my career as a Sabre.”
The news has upset many Sabres fans who own his 15 jersey, but give credit where it’s due to the team. It’s offering a $49 credit for the new jersey to any fan who owns the old one.
The amount of attention that the news of a player switching his number is getting is a bit absurd, frankly. But if 9 makes Eichel feel more like himself, I have no qualm. With Ryan O’Reilly gone and the team receiving no immediate replacement for his role, the pressure is going to be on the 21-year-old more than ever. He should receive the captaincy before the season begins, something he’s proven to be deserving of.
Don’t let all the hype surrounding Dahlin twist it. The Sabres are Eichel’s team, captain or not. Let’s hope having his old number will help him grow into what we all know he’s capable of.