CHICAGO – Jason Botterill’s first draft week as a general manager has included plenty of discussions. He’s waiting to find out where they lead.
“It’s a situation where there’s always discussions going on, but to say that we’re close on anything right now, no,” the Sabres’ GM told The Buffalo News on Thursday night. “There’s longer discussions. You’re always looking to try to improve the team, but just like it’s so competitive on the ice, it’s competitive off the ice. You’re working with one team on trying to fix something, but they’re also working on something all the time.
“For it to all come together, sometimes it takes quite a few discussions. It’s not always easy to predict.”
Botterill is open to adding a piece anywhere.
“You’re still looking all over the place,” he said after a meeting of NHL general managers. “It’s not always going to be the big splash on July 1, but it’s a scenario of trying to find value, trying to continue to build depth in different areas.
“Obviously, we want to develop some of our young players to have more expanded roles, but if you can pick up a player to add more depth in certain situations, we’re looking at both forwards and defensemen.”
The Sabres hold the No. 8 pick Friday in the first round of the NHL Draft, and the GM has had discussions of moving up and down.
“You have to be prepared for any scenario,” Botterill said. “From my own personal experience, I look back at the 2012 draft. Pittsburgh trades Jordan Staal a couple hours before the draft, and the next thing you know we had the eighth overall pick. Things certainly change.
“What I like what the staff has done, part of the discussions in both May and this week is, ‘OK, these are sort of the top eight guys that we’re focusing on, but what happens if we move back? What happens if we move up in the first round?’
"I like the fact that they’re going through all those different scenarios and are prepared for anything.”
Until something happens, the Sabres’ scouts will determine the best eight prospects and get ready to add one.
“If we get hit hard, we’ll get No. 8 on our list,” Jeff Crisp, the head amateur scout, told Sabres.com. “If we don’t, we’ll get someone higher on our list.”
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) June 22, 2017
Crisp and Kevin Devine, the director of player personnel, will run the draft table with input from Botterill. Crisp and Devine took over after Buffalo dismissed amateur scouting director Greg Royce and scouting director Rob Murphy along with GM Tim Murray in April.
“It hasn’t changed much,” Crisp said. “Greg Royce did a great job setting the table for us with all the work during the year. The plan was in place. We just stayed with the same plan and stayed with the same structure. The basis was all there. We’re just getting into fine-tuning and details with Jason, myself and Kevin.
“Jason wants good players that are going to help the Sabres win, and we’ve always wanted that. It might fine-tune the exact details of what’s important as a Sabre going forward, but for the most part we’ve always wanted guys that are going to be good people in Buffalo as Sabres, good character and good hockey players. That hasn’t changed.”
If the Sabres keep the eighth pick, there should be high-scoring wingers and puck-moving defensemen available. Both would fit Buffalo’s organizational needs.
Back in the fall of 2007, the Sabres had a different need. For a 9-year-old already determined to play in the NHL, this was a dream gig. Nolan Patrick was named an honorary equipment manager, so he grabbed the uniforms and hung them in the appropriate stalls.
No. 21 belonged to Drew Stafford. No. 28 was for Paul Gaustad. On and on they went, each member of the Sabres getting his jersey from a kid who watched Buffalo play whenever he could.
“I remember guys walking around the room, and I was just staring at guys, hanging these jerseys up,” Patrick said. “That was probably one of the cooler things.”
It was definitely worth the three-hour ride from Patrick’s home in Winnipeg, Manitoba, to the exhibition game in Grand Forks, N.D. Although Minnesota beat the Sabres in the 2007 preseason game, the experience left a lasting impression on a hockey fanatic who saw the game differently from others his age.
He still does. That’s why Patrick will be one of the first two players chosen Friday.
“I could care less if I go one or two,” Patrick said outside United Center. “I just want to make the NHL next year. Wherever I get picked, that doesn’t matter as long I go somewhere where the team wants me.”
New Jersey will get the first opportunity to select the 18-year-old. If the Devils pass in favor of Nico Hischier, then Philadelphia will gladly pick Patrick. He won’t last until the Sabres announce the No. 8 selection, but it would be fitting if he did.
Buffalo picked his father, Steve, in the first round in 1980. The Sabres employed his uncle James as a defenseman from 1998 to 2004 and as an assistant coach from 2006 to 2013. James Patrick was Nolan’s hook-up for that preseason job.
“He pulled some strings,” Nolan Patrick said with a smile.
Botterill is trying to pull some, too.