The Sabres have focused on acquiring first- and second-round draft picks during the last few years. It turns out one of the third-rounders they've stockpiled could help land a future Hall of Famer.
The Detroit Red Wings have granted coach Mike Babcock a three-week window to talk with other teams about working on their bench. If the sides come to an agreement, the hiring team would owe Detroit a third-round pick during the next three years.
Buffalo doesn't have a third-round selection this year, but it has four in 2016. In addition to their own, the Sabres have the third-rounders belonging to St. Louis (acquired in the Ryan Miller trade), Dallas (Jhonas Enroth) and the New York Islanders (Michal Neuvirth).
The Sabres' list of recent third-round picks includes NHL players Clarke MacArthur, Andrej Sekera, Brayden McNabb and Corey Tropp. It also features Michael Tessier, Kevin Sundher and Marc-Andre Gragnani, players who never panned out.
It seems like a worthy gamble to get a coach who has made the playoffs 11 times in his 12 seasons. Babcock has won one Stanley Cup while appearing in the finals three times. He's also guided Canada to two straight Olympic gold medals.
The 52-year-old Babcock is scheduled to fly to Czech Republic on Sunday and spend next week at the world championships. Sabres General Manager Tim Murray, who was in Buffalo on Friday, had been leaning against traveling to the worlds. It's not clear whether Babcock's appearance will convince Murray to head overseas.
The Sabres said Friday they will make no comments about their coaching search until one is hired.
The world championships conclude May 17, giving teams about a week to meet with Babcock when he returns. All teams must request permission from Red Wings GM Ken Holland before speaking with the coach.
Holland, who wants to keep Babcock, decided to allow other teams to contact the coach after the two took a long car ride together.
"Mike said he'd like the opportunity to see what's out there for him," Holland told reporters during a conference call. "He's earned the right to explore that.
"If he finds a better situation, I'll shake his hand and thank him for 10 fabulous years."
Buffalo is one of six teams without a coach, joining Toronto, Philadelphia, San Jose, Edmonton and New Jersey. Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli is at the world championships and has already interviewed former Sharks coach Todd McLellan. Teams looking to upgrade their coaching staff could also join the process.
While Babcock has given hints he's ready for a new challenge, he's also made it clear his family loves Detroit. The opportunity to interview elsewhere will give him a chance to see if he should stay or move on. Babcock's contract expires June 30.
"People can read it into it what they want," Babcock told the Detroit Free Press. "There is no decision made at all. We really like it here. My family loves Detroit. It's way easier for my family to stay here.
"I just felt after 10 years the opportunity was out there. I'm going to ride this process out."