While the 2014 NHL Draft is a week away, Sabres general manager Tim Murray also has free agency on his mind.
He told reporters on Thursday that he’s fielded calls from agents around the League to find out what areas the team would like to address come July 1.
“We have needs everywhere and when I talk to GMs or agents – more agents – [about] their potential free agent list, they ask, ‘What are your needs?’ And we have needs everywhere,” Murray said. “On this team and in Rochester, probably goaltending is what I say is not a pressing need. But everywhere else, we can use help throughout the lineup. ”
“…And when you get those calls, I assume that they have people in their stable that they feel this is the right spot. I don’t think they’re just calling all 30 GMs and asking that question.”
Murray is also exploring trade routes, not just for another first-round pick in this year’s draft, but for players that can help the team next season as well. He also said he’s looking at “late bloomers” – players hitting free agency that are 27 or 28 and feel they will have better opportunities with another club.
What’s attractive to some players may not be attractive to other players. I think we’re attractive to a certain type of player - Tim Murray
“What’s attractive to some players may not be attractive to other players. I think we’re attractive to a certain type of player,” he said.
He also didn't agree with the idea that the team would overpay for players with limited talent and upside.
“I don’t think they necessarily all have to be bad players,” he said. “I think they can be guys that need an opportunity that certainly see opportunity here.”
The salary cap is expected to go up, so that means it will also cost more to reach the floor. Murray doesn’t think hitting that number is going to be much of a problem for his club. The challenge is spending that money on the right players.
The cap floor is something he really doesn’t like talking about.
“I hear about it all the time. It’s a distraction. You get into the middle of a meeting and then someone walks in the door and talks about the floor,” he said. “It’s easy to spend money. I don’t like spending money but it’s easy to spend money. People want your money so it’s not hard to give away. It’s just, are the right players or are the guys we like, are they going to approach us to take our money?”
Murray then went on to address the front office’s decision to use a compliance buyout on forward Ville Leino’s contract. Leino signed a six-year deal with the team in 2011. He finished his three-year tenure with the Sabres with 10 goals and 36 assists in 137 games.
“If you’re talking in Ville’s instance, the alternative, to buy him out and keep him on the cap is six years. That’s not interesting to us,” he said.
If the Sabres had used a standard buyout on Leino’s contract, the payout would count against the cap for double the length of the term remaining. Murray expects the team to be increasingly competitive each year and he would rather be able to allocate that money elsewhere.
“Six years down the road is not suitable to have that cap hit. And to keep [Leino] on the team – after we had our internal meetings and decided that he didn’t fit going forward – that was not an option either,” he said. “So this was the only option and I don’t think that’s going to affect our ability to get to the floor.”