TAMPA – Tim Murray stayed busy during his first trade deadline as a general manager.
The Buffalo Sabres started their day by claiming forward Cory Conacher off waivers and then picking up forwards Nicolas Deslauriers and Hudson Fasching from the Los Angeles Kings for Rochester Americans players Brayden McNabb, Jonathan Parker and two second-round picks.
The organization’s biggest deals of the day, however, weren’t announced until after the 3 p.m. deadline passed. As Murray and the Sabres work to rebuild the roster, they acquired Torrey Mitchell and two second-round picks (one in 2014 and the other in 2016) from the Minnesota Wild for forwards Matt Moulson and Cody McCormick.
The Sabres also dealt goaltender Jaroslav Halak, whom they acquired on Friday as part of a package for Steve Ott and Ryan Miller, and a third-round pick in 2015 to Washington for goaltender Michal Neuvirth and defenseman Rostislav Klesla.
Depending on conditions that have to be met, the Sabres could have as many as five first-round picks in the next two drafts. They also currently hold seven second-round picks over the course of the next three drafts.
Murray told the media in Buffalo that he didn’t have any real expectations going into the day when it came to what deals could be made, but liked how everything turned out.
“I think it’s a good day,” Murray said. “I think the combination of the picks that we’ve added and the young players we’ve added, I think it gives us a ton of ammunition now going to the draft where there will be players available that aren’t available on Trade Deadline Day.”
Murray said it’s important that players in the organization are batting each other for playing time. That goes for all positions from the forwards to the goaltenders.
In claiming, Conacher, who went undrafted out of Canisius College and played in Tampa Bay before being traded to the Senators, Murray feels he’s added a player that will not only help his NHL roster, but make other players in the organization want to work that much harder.
“I want competition. I want one of our draft picks to say today that they’re pissed off that we went and got Cory Conacher,” Murray said. “And that’s how you create competition.”
At the goaltending position, Jhonas Enroth has started three of the team’s four games since the Olympic break and will start again Thursday against the Lightning. He’ll be playing to keep his No. 1 job now that Neuvirth is on the team.
Neuvirth, a second-round pick by the Capitals in 2006 (34th overall) has posted a 4-6-2 record, a .914 save percentage and a 2.82 goals against average in 13 games this season.
“For whatever reason, he’s a backup there. He’s just not as important as he wants to be,” Murray said of Neuvirth. “I think when he gets to feel some love again or whatever you want to call it and has an opportunity, that he can get his game back.”
The draft picks the team gave up for Deslauriers and Fasching were origninally acquired by Buffalo in a trade with Los Angeles for Robyn Regehr and are for the 2014 and 2015 NHL Drafts.
Deslauriers, 23, switched from defense to forward this season and has led the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League in goals and shots this season, totaling 39 points (18+21) through 60 games.
Before being selected in the third round (84th overall) of the 2009 NHL Draft, Deslauriers posted prolific numbers as a defenseman with Rouyn-Noranda and Gatineau of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, recording 127 points (35+92) in 223 games.
Fasching, 18, is a 6-foot-2, 213-pound freshman with the Minnesota Golden Gophers. He was was originally drafted by Los Angeles in the fourth round (118th overall) of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft and ranks third on the team and seventh in the conference with 27 points (12+15) through 31 games.
He also spent two seasons with the U.S. National Development Team, posting 32 points (11+21) in 62 games.
The second-round pick in 2014 that Minnesota gave to Buffalo for Moulson and McCormick originally belonged to the Winnipeg Jets.
Murray said that Klesla and Deslauriers will play in Rochester as the Americans prepare for the stretch run.
Moulson was traded for in October as part of the deal that sent Thomas Vanek to the New York Islanders. As a pending unrestricted free agent, Moulson knew that there was always a chance that he could finish the season on another team. Within the past week or so, that came more and more apparent and it just became a matter of where he might end up and when.
“You knew it was coming and Tim was pretty up front and honest about what was going on,” Moulson told reporters in Tampa. “It didn’t come as a shock, but it is definitely relieving, from sitting around for the last week as you see other guys get traded and wondering if you’re going to be or when you’re going to be.”
That sense of relief was shared by Halak, who also knew Buffalo might not be his final destination this season.
“The last four days have been crazy getting traded and all the rumors being out there that I’m going to get traded again,” he said. “I’m glad it’s over and I’m really happy I have a chance to make the playoffs and if I can help the team down the stretch, make it.”
Moulson and McCormick were at lunch with the rest of the Sabres when they heard the news that they’d been traded.
“I was a little taken back by it I guess. You can’t really prepare for it,” McCormick said. “I was right beside Matt Moulson, actually. We found out together. I got a call from Jason Pominville. He was excited and right there, it made me excited to join the Minnesota Wild. ”
While McCormick knows he’ll be going to a good team in Minnesota, he said he’ll miss his teammates in Buffalo. McCormick spent parts of five seasons in the Sabres organization.
“I learned a lot here. I’m looking at that dressing room and how tight the guys are,” he said. “I’m leaving that and it’s not fun. I’ve got a lot of friends in that room. I see a lot of upside with a lot of those players and the togetherness of that room is something that’s hard to describe as a hockey player. Leaving that behind, that’s not fun with the trades.”
For Murray, the day was all business. But when it was all over and he was able to look back on it, a faint smile came across his face.
“You know me, it’s what I have to do, right? I wish I could enjoy things more than I do, you know?” he said. “…It’s exhilarating. It was fast and furious. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I enjoyed 90 percent of it. ”