Unrestricted free agency opens at noon on Tuesday. Sabres general manager Tim Murray and his staff have made their lists and hope their targets have a mutual interest.
“The first guy I call might not be the first guy on our list. It might be the guy who’s shown the most interest in coming here right off the bat. But there’s been a lot of interest,” he said on Monday. “Is it legit interest? I’m not sure. We’ll find out tomorrow, right? But I’m pleased with the amount of calls. I’m pleased with what they say is interest in coming to Buffalo.”
Murray said he’s looking for veterans who are willing to be mentors to the younger players in the organization. He cited former Sabres captain Steve Ott as an example of that type of player. Murray has been in contact with Ott’s agent as well as the agent of Matt Moulson among other unnamed players.
“Matt Moulson is a possibility. But one conversation doesn’t mean that they’re coming here for sure,” Murray said. “It’s just, ‘Hey it’s so-and-so. Steve liked his time there. Matt liked his time there, whatever the case may be.’
“But we might be 20th on their list. But there has been a conversation with those guys as there has been with many other guys.”
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Murray also talked about the team’s decision to use their second compliance buyout on defenseman Christian Ehrhoff. By using a compliance buyout, Ehrhoff’s cap hit will not count against the team.
Also since Ehrhoff signed a long-term contract prior to the last Collective Bargaining Agreement, there would be serious cap penalties assessed to Buffalo if Ehrhoff retired before the end of the contract even if he was traded.
Here’s what Murray had to say:
“We went through the scenarios. We didn’t feel that we could trade him. There was opportunity to trade him but with the penalties on the contract at the end if he were to retire, we felt that in six or seven years when he’s making a million dollars and he has a lot of incentive to retire, that the penalties were too high for where we want to be at that time.
"We want to be a contending team that spends to the cap and has ability to acquire a free agent at the trade deadline that puts us over the top that makes lot of money and that contract was a hindrance.
"I like Christian. He’s a good player. I guess he could’ve played it out here. He didn’t seem to be all in on that. And I respect that. I wasn’t here when he was signed so I don’t think going through a rebuild was attractive to him – not think, I know that.
"So this seemed to be the best course of action for us to move on, be out from under that contract, what could possibly come at the end of that contract, and now we don’t have to worry about it. Now we just have to focus on rebuilding, bringing in good young players and get going here.”
With Ehrhoff out of the picture, the Sabres will have more to spend to get to the salary cap floor. Murray doesn’t see it as an issue. He said he one way is to target teams near the cap ceiling who decided to spend money on big-ticket free agents and will look to shed salary in other ways.