Tim Murray watched the televised coverage of the NHL trade deadline in between phone calls. He saw kiss cams featuring Martin Biron and big-headed mascots running through a parking lot. It’s no wonder the trade analysts kept texting Murray every five minutes asking if he had something (anything!) for them to report on the air.
He finally did late Monday afternoon – Buffalo sent Jamie McGinn to Anaheim for a conditional third-round draft pick – but it was a day filled with inactivity for the Sabres’ general manager and other GMs around the NHL.
The McGinn trade was one of 19 made throughout the league, the fourth-lowest total in the last 13 years.
“Under a cap system, you see teams wrapping up their core players when they have a chance to,” Murray said in First Niagara Center. “That leaves fewer and fewer rentals, and I think teams are getting more specific in what they need as a rental versus, ‘Let’s just go out there and try to get the best player available, and he doesn’t really fit our team.’
“You can talk about analytics. You can talk about video. You can talk about a lot of different things that allow teams to be more specific in their needs, so this is what you have.”
The Ducks could use physical forwards with scoring potential, hence the deal for the Sabres’ top asset.
McGinn has 14 goals, with most coming from around the crease. Despite a 34-19-8 record, the Ducks are just 22nd in scoring. They also added Florida forward Brandon Pirri, who scored 22 goals in 49 games last year.
“We had a couple different offers, and I thought that Anaheim was the best fit because of the team that they have there,” said Murray, who never came close to re-signing McGinn. “Anaheim to me was the team that had the best chance to win out of the teams that I spoke to.”
The Ducks’ ability to win will determine what compensation Buffalo receives. If Anaheim wins two playoff rounds while using McGinn in at least 50 percent of its games, the Sabres will get a second-round pick in 2017.
Otherwise, the Sabres will receive a 2016 third-rounder that originally belonged to Florida or Minnesota.
Either way, the acquisition gave Buffalo 21 picks to use during the next two NHL Drafts. Murray can use some of them in trades for players, which is what he did when he picked up Ryan O’Reilly and Evander Kane.
“We have a ton of picks, a ton of picks that don’t have to be used on draft day, which I’ve said since I’ve got here,” Murray said. “Whether you like the trades I’ve made or not, I have shipped out quite a few picks for a more established player, a more finished product. I think we have a lot of options again going forward in the next two drafts.”
Murray had hoped to get additional assets for pending unrestricted free agents Chad Johnson, David Legwand and Carlo Colaiacovo, but there were no deals to be made.
“There were some inquiries, but I felt when I got the calls it was just tire-kicking,” Murray said. “We’re in a position to do a hockey deal, and it’s just so hard today. I had four GMs say the same thing, ‘I’d love to do a hockey deal with you. I don’t think we can get it done today, so let’s talk in the summertime.’ ”
Murray plans to do a lot of talking during the offseason. He knows the Sabres need an upgrade in scoring talent, and he’s sick of losing.
Buffalo is 25-31-7 heading into Tuesday’s visit by Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers.
“I think we’ve improved all over the ice,” Murray said. “I see a lot of bright spots. I really do. … We haven’t been able to completely put it all together.”
In other topics:
• Murray expects concussed forward Tyler Ennis to return before the end of the season. Ennis, who has been out since Dec. 30, lightly skated with a team development coach Monday as athletic trainer Tim Macre observed.
“I think Tyler will come back this year,” Murray said. “I think that they’re being careful, very careful with him. He doesn’t have headaches and he’s not going blind. Light doesn’t bother him now. It’s heart rate and fatigue, so there’s no rush.
“When you’re dealing with this stuff, it’s day-to-day. He skated today and had no issues, but that doesn’t mean he won’t have an issue tomorrow.”
• The Sabres have not begun negotiations with the agent for Rasmus Ristolainen. The budding defenseman will be a restricted free agent this summer.
“We haven’t reached out and they haven’t reached out,” said Murray, who has run numbers for long- and short-term contracts. “We shouldn’t be that far apart, but there will be a bit of gap when we start. I don’t see a big issue and I hope there’s not a big issue.”