Tim Murray and members of the Sabres' scouting department met with the media for their pre-Draft press conference on Tuesday and, naturally, there was a lot to cover. Among the topics discussed were the potential for trading picks, the status of restricted free agent negations and, of course, a kid from Harvard who was the subject of headlines on Monday.
Here's some of what we learned:
VESEY IS A KNOWN GAMBLE
When the Sabres acquired the rights to sign Harvard University graduate Jimmy Vesey on Monday in exchange for a third-round pick, the question on most people's mind was how certain the team was that they'd be able to sign him. Then agent Peter Donatelli told ESPN.com that at this time Vesey's plans to become an unrestricted free agent on Aug. 15 have not changed.
So, what's the deal?
"I would expect that that would’ve been their answer, they haven’t sat down yet to talk to us," Murray said. "To me, it's like a college recruiting process so we haven’t begun our recruiting yet, we just happen to have exclusive rights … I have no issue with the statement whatsoever, but he's our property until Aug. 15. It's not a bold move to me, it's a gamble."
Why is it a gamble worth making? Well, the Sabres still have three third-round picks even after the trade. According to the Sabres' own metrics, only 7 percent of third round picks end up being of Vesey's caliber – which, according to Murray, is a future top-six forward.
Plus, there's the factor of Jack Eichel being used as a potential recruiter. Not only are Eichel and Vesey friends, they're currently playing on the same team in the Foxboro Sports Center Summer Pro Hockey League and share an agent.
"I haven’t spoken to Jack this summer about Jimmy," Murray said. "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."
THE NO. 8 PICK COULD BE TRADED, BUT THE PRICE IS STEEP
Murray said that having the chance to make the No. 8 selection in front of the hometown fans in Buffalo on Friday won't stop him from making a deal if makes the team better, but he also said it would take a great return in order to make that happen.
"If somebody offers us a top-end, young, left-shot D and they demand our eighth-overall pick and we feel that it makes us better, we'll do the trade," Murray said. "If we did that we'd try to move back in the first round somehow but, long-term, if we got – it’s a dream – a franchise left-shot D that's 25 years old, I don’t see anybody in the city complaining about that. I don’t foresee that happening."
Murray said that the team has three prospects targeted as players they believe will be available at No. 8.
"That’s who we think will be left," he said. "Not all three will be there but one of the 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, it's a bonus."
MOVING UP IS UNLIKELY
Murray's inquired about trading up in the Draft, but said Tuesday that he doesn’t believe it’s a possibility. He called Columbus Blue Jackets General Manager Jarmo Kekäläinen to ask about the availability of the third-overall pick and was told that the pick was not being shopped.
"Anything's possible, but I think he said publicly that you'd have to knock his socks off and I think we'd have to knock his socks off and a couple pairs in his drawer too to get it done," he said.
While he said he would trade pieces to improve if need be, Murray also said he is not willing to part with any of his young core, which would assumedly include Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart and possibly Rasmus Ristolainen among others.
IF THE SABRES DO PICK AT NO. 8, THERE WILL BE NO SPEECH
Murray has become known for his famously short announcements of the team's draft selections in his years as Buffalo's GM. And that's not going to change just because his team is the host.
"I may announce the pick, it's not going to be any different," he said. "I'm not thanking anybody. I'm just going to make the pick and if somebody feels put out and wants to meet out in Buffalo downtown Saturday night and get a personal thank you I will certainly do that."
THE SABRES LIKE THE DEPTH OF THE DRAFT
Asked about how he sees this year's talent pool, Sabres Director of Amateur Scouting Greg Royce said he believes the first round is deep through pick No. 15, the second round will yield a good player that will need time to develop and the third and fourth rounds will be a bit trickier.
"I think the talent pool is quite good this year," he said. "Getting into the later rounds, we're just looking for the exceptional element so it's the guys in the field who have done their homework and are able to relate to those players and can identify the exceptional element that will make them an NHL player."
NO OFFER SET FOR STAMKOS
With free agency quickly approaching, rumors persist regarding various teams and their interest level toward Tampa Bay Lightning forward and pending unrestricted free agent Steven Stamkos. Without confirming nor denying the Sabres' interest in him, Murray said Tuesday that the team had not yet discussed a concrete offer for the coveted scorer.
"We have not even discussed an offer so I don’t know where all the rumors are coming from," he said. "I think everybody knows that whoever does go after him is going to be spending a lot of money but we haven’t really discussed a firm offer internally."
Murray did provide updates on his own restricted free agents, saying he had a second chat with representatives for Ristolainen on Monday, has had "good talks" with representatives for Jake McCabe as well as multiple discussions with Zemgus Girgensons' people. He has not yet begun discussions with representatives of Marcus Foligno.
As far as Buffalo's own UFAs, Murray said he has not had discussions with the agents of Chad Johnson nor for any of the Sabres' Group 6 free agents, which include Tim Schaller and Chad Ruhwedel.