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Sabres willing to trade No. 8 pick in NHL Draft

Rebuilding team would make deal for young left-shooting defenseman

by Joe Yerdon / Correspondent

BUFFALO -- The rebuild is well underway for the Buffalo Sabres, and with the 2016 NHL Draft set to begin Friday at First Niagara Center (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN), general manager Tim Murray is ready to do what it takes to help them take the next step.

That includes the possibility of trading the No. 8 pick in the first round for a top-four, left-handed shooting defenseman, an area of need for the Sabres.

"Say if somebody offers us a top-end, young, left-shot [defenseman] and they demand our eighth overall pick and we feel that makes us better, we'll make the trade," Murray said Tuesday. "And I think the fans might be short-term disappointed because we don't make a pick. If we did that, we'd try to move back into the first round somehow, but long-term if we got, it's a dream, a franchise left-shot [defenseman] that's 25 years old, I don't see anyone in the city complaining about that. I don't foresee that happening, but you're asking me a hypothetical so in a perfect world that's where the pick would go."

The Sabres are scheduled to make 11 picks in the seven-round draft.

"At eight we've got it narrowed down to three guys, so people think we're targeting these three guys and it's not, that's just who we think is going to be left," Murray said. "Not all three will be there, but one of those three will be there. We've interviewed those players and I guess if it's a player that we have rated higher than those three that is available, that's a bonus.

"That's kind of your job to study the draft and try to understand who other teams like and who they may take. I think we've been pretty good at our educated guesses at who's going before our pick."

Buffalo could be in line to select one of the top four defensemen according to NHL Central Scouting's ranking of North American skaters eligible for the draft: No. 4-ranked Jakob Chychrun (Sarnia, Ontario Hockey League), No. 5-ranked Olli Juolevi (London, OHL), No. 6-ranked Charlie McAvoy (Boston University) and No. 8-ranked Mikhail Sergachev (Windsor, OHL).

Video: Vesey's rights dealt to Buffalo

The Sabres had 12 picks in the draft, but traded one of their four third-round selections, No. 76, to the Nashville Predators on Monday for the rights to Harvard forward Jimmy Vesey, the 2016 Hobey Baker Award as the top NCAA men's player. Vesey can become an unrestricted free agent Aug. 15, something his agent told he intends to do, but until then the Sabres have exclusive rights to speak with him.

"He's a five or better in all of our pro ratings," Murray said. "We've watched him a ton of times over the last four years. He's a Hobey Baker finalist a year ago to a great player [Sabres forward Jack Eichel], he's a Hobey Baker winner this year. His ability and the type of player he is [are] is well documented. To me, he's got top-six potential. We're certainly not going to, if we get him signed, we're not going to tell you he's in our top six, but that's his potential; that's the pro rating for us.

"He's a complete forward. He's big and strong, he can really shoot the puck, he's a scorer but he can also make plays. He has a high hockey IQ. He's the type of player we're looking for."

Vesey is from Boston and is friends with Eichel, the Sabres' 2015 first-round pick. That's a relationship Murray may use to his advantage to try and sign Vesey before Aug. 15.

"I haven't spoken to Jack this summer about Jimmy," Murray said. "But now that we own his rights and that's allowed, we might, potentially, use Jack as a tool. I guess I'd be a tool not to. I didn't think we were going to talk about this today, we have the draft coming up, but yeah, I'm going to reach out to Jack, obviously, and see what, now that we can talk to him, see what we can do to help in the recruiting process but there's lots to go through yet."

Murray was one of the busiest general managers during the 2015 NHL Draft, when he made two trades using first-round picks to acquire goalie Robin Lehner from the Ottawa Senators and forward Ryan O'Reilly from the Colorado Avalanche. With the 2016 draft in Buffalo and the Sabres in the spotlight, there may be pressure on Murray be active again in trying to get the Sabres to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2011.

"I think we have a very good drafting staff here and we have 11 picks, so if we hit on 11 picks we have no chance of signing all 11 picks in two years," Murray said. "I'm being a little facetious there. If we can trade a couple of picks to improve our team, we're going to continue to do that."

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