Sabres General Manager Tim Murray has been consistent with his policy of dealing players on expiring contracts at the trade deadline in order to keep building his club's stockpile of assets. It appears Murray is prepared to take a different approach with first-line winger Jamie McGinn.
Murray revealed Thursday night prior to the Sabres' game against the Boston Bruins that he has spoken to agent Thane Campbell two or three times in recent weeks about a possible extension for McGinn, Buffalo's No. 4 scorer this season in both goals (11) and points (22).
Murray joked that upon his return from a scouting combine in Florida he noted Campbell's quotes in a Buffalo News article when the team was in Denver about how McGinn has grown to love the city.
"Everybody was tweeting, 'Murray, get him signed. He loves Buffalo,' Murray joked during a regularly scheduled interview on WGR Radio.
"We've talked to him 2-3 times. We've asked what their thoughts are on term and on money. We've given them our thoughts on term. So if we can do something that suits both parties, we will try. And if we can't, again depending on these three weeks how the team does, I don't want to lose a player leave here without getting anything back."
Murray has been out of town for the last three weeks scouting potential draft picks and Sabres prospects. His travels took him to Vancouver for the CHL Prospects Game, to Western Hockey League games in Calgary, games at the University of Minnesota and St. Cloud State to watch Hudson Fasching and Will Borgen, and to the Beanpot Tournament in Boston.
The Sabres have declined to make Murray available to the Buffalo media in recent weeks. Several outlets, including The Buffalo News, have been told he will speak later this month in advance of the Feb. 29 trade deadline.
Murray said he's liked the season of McGinn, acquired along with Ryan O'Reilly in the big trade with Colorado on draft night last June. McGinn, 27, has a cap hit of $2.95 million this season on the back half of a two-year deal he signed with Colorado in 2014. He's likely to draw 3-4 years in free agency and could push $4 milllion annually.
"He's played well for us," Murray said. "Besides playing well and scoring, I like his approach to the game. I like his on-ice and off-ice demenaor and approach. I think he has personality and cajones that we like in some of our players. If we could get a deal done, that would be great.
"But what we might be offering now based on comparables might not be a realistic deal because we know when guys like him are so close to July 1st that his comparables today will go out the door on July 1. So I understand that and I understand if that happens, that's his right. We might be talking two different languages here but we're talking."
Murray said he has yet to decide if his team will be a seller or buyer at the trade deadline and added he told coach Dan Bylsma that fact during a conversation Thursday. The Sabres entered Thursday's game 11 points out of a wild-card slot in the Eastern Conference with 31 games left.
"It was very informal," Murray said. "I said, 'Obviously it's going to take a lot of winning by us and a lot of losing by other teams but you have 2-3 weeks to show me that we either are in contention or we're not and I'll act accordingly at that time.'
"I'm leaning a certain way but I'm going to wait and see what the players and our coaching staff do between now and then to show me exactly where we are."
Murray said he has not given up on making a push for the playoffs this season, especially since the Sabres still have 12 games left before the deadline.
"I'm going to be very pragmatic about this," he said. "I hope they can. And in saying that, if we're going to be buyers, they better do it. That's pretty cut and dried."