Days before the NHL Draft to be held in Buffalo, NY, Sabres’ General Manager Tim Murray sat down to take questions from local media. He addressed Buffalo’s acquisition of Jimmy Vesey, Steven Stamkos rumors, and of course the draft itself. Additionally, GMTM touched on the Sabres’ own UFA and RFA players and what kind of team he is looking to build in the years to come. As always, Murray didn’t disappoint.

On Jimmy Vesey…

The 2012 3rd round pick and newest Hobey Baker award winner was acquired by Buffalo on June 20 for a 3rd round pick in this years draft, slated to be number 76 overall. Though Vesey can still become a free agent and sign with any team come August 15, Murray is hopeful Vesey will sign with the Sabres. On using the influence of Jack Eichel to bring Vesey into the Sabres’ organization, Murray said Jack was a good tool to use, one that Murray would be a “tool” not to. Eichel and Vesey both played college hockey in Boston (Boston University/Harvard) and share the same agent. Let’s all hope a deal gets done. A 3rd round pick is significant payment for the rights to a UFA-to-be, considering the Florida Panthers only gave up a 6th round pick for the rights to Keith Yandle (though an additional 4th round pick goes to the Rangers if Yandle signs). However, Buffalo had four 3rd rounders in this years draft, ammunition accumulated by selling off parts for the last 4 years. Time to start building.

On Steven Stamkos…

According to Tim Murray, the Sabres have not had internal discussions on an offer for Stamkos, the prize free agent this summer. Rumors were floating around Tuesday morning that the Sabres were prepared to go all-in for Stamkos, to the tune of $12 million per year. The Sabres would love Stamkos’ 50-goal potential and true superstar status, but as of now mum’s the word. It’s worth noting that the Sabres and other team are not technically allowed to discuss Stamkos or any other free agent, as their teams hold their rights until July 1.

Other UFA and RFA news…

Though Stamkos is obviously a big piece the Sabres could add this offseason to turn the team into a contender, Murray reiterated his number one concern in strengthening the team is adding a left-sided defensemen. WIth Keith Yandle and Alex Goligoski’s rights being traded this week, it would seem that the two biggest free agent defensemen that fit Murray’s needs are most likely out of the picture. Murray added his number two concern was a winger, also on the left side. In a perfect world, Vesey would sign with the Sabres and fill the number two left wing spot alongside Eichel that Matt Moulson was unable to make his own last season. If all other options fail, Murray made it clear that there are players within the organization that could shift to play the left side, even if they are a right shot. Zach Bogosian is a candidate for the LHD spot, as he played alongside Rasmus Ristolainen last season. However, it was a small sample size and Bogo didn’t look entirely comfortable.

Murray has had preliminary talks with RFA-to-bes Rasmus Ristolainen and Zemgus Girgensons, but had no other news regarding contract offers. He has had “good talks” with Jake McCabe’s representatives, so hopefully a contract can be hammered out soon for the budding d-man. Look for a bridge contract to the tune of 2 years, $2-2.5 million per year. A deal for Marcus Foligno should also be completed. No contact has been made with Chad Johnson or his representatives, so the Sabres are also going to be in the market for a backup goaltender, assuming Linus Ullmark stays down in Rochester for the 2016/2017 season.

Buffalo Selects…

 At Murray’s first draft in Philadelphia, he used six words to select Sam Reinhart. Last year, it was down to four to select Jack Eichel. Murray isn’t changing now. Don’t expect him to congratulate the Pittsburgh Penguins on winning the Cup or thank the people who are currently working to make Buffalo’s draft weekend a success. The Sabres’ first round pick currently sits at 8th overall. In addition, the Sabres have ten other picks including three in the 3rd round. At his press conference, Murray was very specific about what sort of player he is looking for if he is to trade the 8th overall pick. He stated it would have to be for a franchise, left-handed defensemen. He even mentioned 25 as the ideal age he was looking for. This sounds eerily like Cam Fowler, the Anaheim defensemen that has been linked to numerous teams over the past couple months. These players don’t become available very often, and if we’ve learned anything about Murray over the past couple years, he doesn’t shy away from bold moves. As for any notion the Sabres should stay put and draft at 8th overall just because the draft in the city, Murray said he believes Sabres fans would surely be okay with acquiring a franchise defensemen instead. He also stated that he would look to trade back into the first round if the 8th pick was traded away, which would be a nice move to reward those Sabres fans that spent hard-earned money to attend Day 1.

If the Sabres stay put at 8th in the draft, who should be available to select? Murray and Greg Royce, Director of Amateur Scouting, have identified three players they believe will be available in that position. Alex Nylander, brother of William who was selected 8th overall by Toronto in 2014 is an option. As are three left-handed defensemen playing in the CHL, Jakob Chychrun, Mikhail Sergachev, and Olli Juolevi. However, if one of these d-men is selected by Murray, don’t expect them to come in right away and fill that position of need on the left side of the Sabres’ defense. Though it’s certainly a possibility, Murray believes the majority of the defensemen in the 1st round are at least one year away from playing in the league. The Sabres have other options as well come Friday night in the (716). Royce shared that after the top three picks, they’ve identified a second tier of players that stretch all the way back to about 15th overall. If the Sabres organization receives a good offer for the 8th pick, they should feel comfortable about moving back a couple spots and still drafting a player that can make an impact in the next year or two. As for the hockey fans out there attending day two of the draft, what can you look for from the Sabres? Murray will be active, trying to package picks to move up in draft order. From Royce, the Sabres’ scouts generally are looking to grab players in rounds 3-7 that have an exceptional element to their game. Elite skating, shot, smarts, and size are all attributes that can give a player the edge necessary to make it at the NHL level. Lately, the Sabres have also targeted European and NCAA players that they don’t have to sign to an entry-level contract as soon as CHL players.

All in all, the Sabres are working to speed up the rebuild and mold a contender for the Stanley Cup. Today, Murray said he is looking to construct a roster that can play fast and hard. If the Sabres organization can take that same approach to draft week and free agency, Buffalo Sabres fans could be looking at a contender sooner, rather than later.