FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. –
Friday morning, Buffalo Sabres general manager Tim Murray predicted that it could end up being a very good day for the organization. That was right after he acquired goaltender Robin Lehner
and forward David Legwand
from the Ottawa Senators for the 21st overall pick in that night’s NHL Draft.
Then he selected Hobey Baker winner Jack Eichel with the second-overall pick later that night.
And as soon as Murray, Eichel and the Sabres staff walked off the stage, Commissioner Gary Bettman had a trade to announce.
Buffalo acquired forwards Ryan O’Reilly and Jamie McGinn from the Colorado Avalanche for forward Mikhail Grigorenko, defenseman Nikita Zadorov, prospect J.T. Compher and Buffalo’s first second-round pick in this year’s draft (No. 31 overall).
Not a bad day at all.
“It was a good day. ...We’ve got to get ready for tomorrow, but we did hit some targets today,” Murray said. “And that’s satisfying when you can do that.”
And Murray thinks being able to make big trades look easy comes from the hours of preparation he and his staff put in.
“I have no fear because I think I’m prepared. I think my staff helps me a lot. I’m a scenario guy. Like I’ve said from the start, we have a goal in how we want to build. But it’s a moving target all the time.”
O’Reilly, the 2014 Lady Byng Memorial Trophy winner, tallied 55 points (17+38) in 82 games last season. He led all Colorado skaters in faceoff percentage (53.3%) and takeaways (55). He also led all Colorado forwards with 19:43 of ice time per game. Buffalo ranked 30th last year in faceoff percentage, winning only 44.9 percent of their draws, and was 23rd in takeaways so O’Reilly is primed to make an immediate impact.
“I like a lot about him. He’s got tremendous hockey sense. I think his hockey sense is off the charts,” Murray said. “I think he makes everyone around him better. I love his work ethic on and off the ice. I love his skill level. There’s nothing I don’t like about him.
“And I think the consensus from a lot of players that have played with him and been around him was that he was ‘the guy.’ He seems to be the guy who, at the World Championships for example, Tyler Ennis came back and raved about him. And I’ve heard the same from other GMs that their players have said the same thing.”
A seven-year veteran, McGinn spent most of the 2014-15 season on injured reserve. He registered career-best totals in assists (19) and points (38) in 79 games in 2013-14.
They’ll join a Sabres roster that will include talented forwards like Tyler Ennis, Matt Moulson, Evander Kane – who has yet to make his Buffalo debut – and possibly Eichel under new head coach Dan Bylsma.
“My cliché, we’re trying to improve a little bit every day. I think today, we believe we’ve improved,” Murray said. “But we know. It’s a new coaching staff. There are a lot of new players. There’s going to be a lot of meshing and gelling that has to go on here.
“I have full confidence in our coaching staff that they’ve got the experience and the energy to make that happen.”
Eichel has yet to make a decision on whether he’ll turn pro or return to Boston University in the fall.
And for the second year in a row, Murray didn’t mince words when making that first-round pick. Last year, “The Buffalo Sabres select Sam Reinhart” was all he said. Somehow, he found a way to say even fewer words in Florida.
“Buffalo selects Jack Eichel,” Murray said.
And then he stepped aside.
“I had an idea Tim Murray was going to say that in the exact way that he say it. I was told that he was going to say it like that so it wasn’t really a surprise,” Eichel said. “I kind of liked it. He’s straight forward, got to the point, didn’t have to build up any suspense.”
Murray thinks he could’ve even cut it shorter.
“Four today. I thought about two,” he said. “But if I did two today, what do I do next time? And I’m a big planner. So yes, four words.”