The Bills are famous for reckless draft gambles. The Sabres will roll the dice, too, but trading a third-rounder for the right to negotiate with Jimmy Vesey was a defensible move. The potential reward outweighs the risk.
The only guarantee Tim Murray got was exclusive bargaining rights until Aug. 15, when Vesey becomes a free agent. The GM might have spent a pick for nothing. But the Sabres have three other third-rounders in this draft, and 11 picks overall, so pick 76 was expendable.
Vesey, 23, won the Hobey Baker as the top player in college hockey. He’d step right into the lineup, perhaps on the left side of a line with his buddy Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart. There’s a far greater chance of Vesey succeeding in the NHL than a borderline 18-year-old prospect. Murray must be confident. Eichel and Vesey are tight. They play together in the summer and were USA teammates in the World Championships. Vesey has other good options. He’s a Massachusetts native and has family ties to the Leafs. On July 1, Murray has six weeks to truly win the offseason by getting Vesey to sign.