What the Sabres will do with their first draft pick is exciting. What they’ll do with the rest of them is more intriguing.
Buffalo will take Jack Eichel with the No. 2 selection Friday at the NHL Draft, but they have three more picks in the opening two rounds. The No. 21 overall pick has the potential to be a game changer.
Tim Murray’s primary objective is to trade the selection for a young, established player. The general manager has been willing to package center Mikhail Grigorenko with No. 21 in trades, a source said.
Murray’s other hope is that a draftee listed in the organization’s top 10 falls to that spot. He wasn’t optimistic last week of achieving either goal, but more general managers are talking to each other this week.
The biggest name at a position of need is still New York Rangers goaltender Cam Talbot. The 27-year-old is 33-15-5 with a .931 save percentage during his two-year career. He has one year left on a $1.45 million contract before becoming an unrestricted free agent.
The Rangers aren’t scheduled to pick until the 59th overall selection, so they may be eager to move up.
Edmonton, which is also in the market for a goalie, has four picks in the opening two rounds, too. In addition to No. 1, the Oilers have No. 16.
“Instinctively, you want to keep the pick, especially as the draft approaches,” Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli said Monday during a news conference in Edmonton. “Those picks are valuable on a number of levels, and the other level is it can get you a pretty good player.
“There are goalies out there. We’ve had discussions with teams. We’re in a group of maybe two or three or four teams that are looking for goalies. There’s more goalies than those number of teams, so we’re in a bit of a buyer’s market.”
While they don’t have goalies, other teams lacking in early picks that may have players of interest for Buffalo include the New York Islanders (no selections in the first two rounds) and Pittsburgh (only the No. 46 pick in the first four rounds). Nashville, St. Louis and Chicago don’t have first-round picks, while Toronto, Florida, Detroit, Washington, Vancouver, Montreal and Anaheim don’t have second-rounders.
As players pop off the draft board - or remain on it - teams may begin moving.
“It’s reading the draft as the draft’s going on, it’s not reading the draft today,” Murray said. “We have a fair idea where a lot of the players are going to go today, but you have to sit at that table and kind of read the tea leaves and catch the direction of where it’s going.
“At 21, we may have a decision to make on a guy there, and the way the draft has gone or depending on who’s left on the board or what position is left on the board, we may feel we can get that same guy at 31.”
Dan Marr, the director of NHL Central Scouting, says many teams will leave Friday’s first round feeling good about themselves.
“A lot of teams are going to get a player at their pick that they had a lot higher on their list,” Marr said. “There’s not that much separation between the players, so one team may have the player 10th and the other team may have him at 20. They call them jellybeans. You can just throw them up and they’ll scatter. Just take your pick and you’ll be happy.”
Though the Sabres have more forwards in their system than defensemen, they won’t head to the Florida Panthers’ BB&T Center with a defined check list.
“If you start addressing weaknesses at a certain draft,” Murray said, “two drafts from now you’re going to say you don’t have enough wingers. It’s best player available. If you have a weakness or a lack of a certain position, go out and trade for that position.
“You have to look big picture when it comes to the draft, and that’s best player available at any position.”