Buffalo Sabres general manager Tim Murray currently has one goaltender on his NHL roster under contract and knows he needs to add some depth there in the coming weeks. Chad Johnson is currently the only goaltender the team has signed with more than two games of NHL experience. Murray would like to change that soon.
“The basic plan is: We have to get a goalie. That’s for sure, but it’s always a moving plan,” he said at a press conference Thursday at First Niagara Center.
Murray indicated that there are a few ways he could go about acquiring a goalie Johnson can compete with for the No. 1 job and one that can start for the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League. He said he has spoken to five teams about a trade.
“We would love to trade for a youngish goalie. If that doesn’t work, we would trade for a real good short-term goalie, who’s older,” Murray said. “If we could sign the best or second-best free-agent goalie, we’d be happy with that too. You’re working it every day.”
He expects to see the Sabres make progress both on and off the ice after two last-place seasons. However, he’s aware of how critical finding a good netminder can be to moving up in the standings. He's confident he can find a quality one.
“If we don’t execute and get the right goaltender or at least a competent goaltender, then talking about the playoffs is just a waste of time,” he said. “There are a lot of fixes here that still have to happen.”
The first buyout period ends on June 30 and Murray said he has spoken with Cody Hodgson and his agent about the possibility of buying the 25-year-old forward out. Hodgson finished last season with six goals and 13 points. He led the team with 44 points in 2013-14.
“We’ve discussed it with Cody based on the year he’s had. In saying that, we’ve been in contact with his agent,” Murray said. “As I’ve said before, he’s in Sweden and he’s trying to improve himself and improve his game. …It’s an option based on the rules of the League.”
ON RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS:
Mikhail Grigorenko is one restricted free agent the Sabres are working on signing. However, an agreement has yet to be reached because the team thinks he may need more time in the minors and is offering a two-way contract while Grigorenko is seeking a one-way deal.
“We’re leaning towards qualifying him. That’s not say we can’t change our mind and offer a one-way deal a little farther down the road,” Murray said. “But if he doesn’t wait for that, it’s out of our hands – if he doesn’t wait for that.”
Murray said that the organization will extend qualifying offers to restricted free agents Johan Larsson, Philip Varone, Tim Schaller and Jerry D’Amigo. Decisions on other restricted free agents like Jordan Samuels-Thomas, Nathan Lieuwen and Jerome Leduc will be made by the June 30 deadline.
ON THE AMERKS:
The Sabres are also in the market for a head coach of the Amerks.
“I want a guy that’s strong, a guy that understands you can teach and win at the same time,” Murray said. “I think a lot of guys feel that they’re either teachers or they’re winners and they want a veteran team. I think you can do both. It’s been done in our league before.”
As the team begins building a strong foundation down on the farm, Murray doesn’t think that you have to sacrifice winning in order to develop talent at the AHL level.
“When we start drafting guys that are turning pro and developing properly and leaving guys there for a couple years that need it, I’m confident that we can develop there and win there,” he said. “The head coach will have a big say in that obviously. So that’s on me to hire the right guy. But I hate losing down there. I want to develop players. I want to win hockey games.”