If another team is willing, Tim Murray is again prepared to make a splash at the NHL Draft. He’s also ready to use Jack Eichel as a recruiter – and he said so in a way only the Sabres’ general manager can.
Murray has shown a history of big moves, most notably trading 2015 first-round picks in swaps for Evander Kane and Robin Lehner. He also sent a second-round pick to Colorado as part of a deal for Ryan O’Reilly. As he prepares for Friday’s first round in First Niagara Center, he’s got his scouts on alert they may not have the No. 8 overall pick.
“If we can trade a couple picks and improve our team, we’ll continue to do that,” Murray said Tuesday during a predraft news conference. “If somebody offers us a top-end, young, left-shot” defenseman “and they demand our eighth overall pick and we feel it makes us better, we’ll do the trade.”
Murray said the Sabres have three players targeted at the No. 8 spot. Two are defensemen, The Buffalo News has learned.
“One of the three will be there,” Murray said.
Murray got his draft week started Monday by acquiring the rights to Jimmy Vesey, who won the Hobey Baker Award as the top college player. The Sabres will have a short negotiating window with Vesey, acquired from Nashville for a third-round pick. They can sign him beginning July 1, and they would lose him Aug. 15.
“It’s a gamble,” Murray said. “He can sign with somebody else Aug. 15, but it was a third-round pick and we can debate the value of third-round picks. Between 30 percent and 10 percent of them play.
“He’s got top-six potential. He’s the type of player we’re looking for.”
Vesey plays summer hockey with Eichel, and the two are good friends. Will Murray ask Eichel to help in negotiations?
“We might potentially use Jack as a tool,” Murray said. “I guess I’d be a tool not to.”