The Sabres are set to pick eighth in the NHL Draft. Buffalo has been that close to the top just twice in the last 25 years.
It’s still not close enough for their liking.
“We’re really trying to move up,” said Kevin Devine, the Sabres’ director of amateur scouting.
The draft is two weeks from today in New Jersey, and the next 14 days are certain to be filled with phone calls, trade rumors and, quite possibly, seismic deals. Teams like Buffalo are eager to move up, and the organizations at the top have said they’re willing to listen:
• Colorado holds the No. 1 overall selection.
“We have to make the best decision,” Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. “Maybe the best is to trade it. Maybe the best is to keep it. At the end, we’ll see what’s on the table.”
• Florida picks second.
“Make me an offer,” Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon said. “You start the process early, and you work it all the way through ’til the five minutes before you make the pick, maybe a minute before the pick. Colorado’s in the driver’s seat right there, and we know we’re going to get a hell of a player at two or three or four.”
• Nashville is set to select fourth, behind Tampa Bay.
“We’ll entertain offers,” Predators Assistant General Manager Paul Fenton told the Nashville Tennessean. “We’ve already had people inquire with us about it, and vice versa.”
Conversations are a long way from consummation.
“In order to move up to that position,” Fenton said of No. 4, “you’re going to have to make an offer that you can’t refuse.”
Not many GMs have been as persuasive as Don Corleone through the years. Since the Sabres joined the NHL in 1970, the No. 1 pick has been dealt at just four drafts: 1975, 1999, 2002 and 2003.
In 1975, Washington traded the top pick to Philadelphia for the No. 18 selection, 24-year-old forward Bill Clement and 20-year-old defenseman Don McLean.
The first pick moved twice in 1999. Tampa traded it to Vancouver for the No. 4 selection and two third-round picks. The Canucks then shipped No. 1 to Atlanta in exchange for the No. 2 selection and a third-rounder.
In 2002, Florida traded the No. 1 pick to Columbus for the No. 3 selection and the option to swap first-round picks in 2003. The option was declined.
Florida sent the 2003 top pick and a third-rounder to Pittsburgh for No. 3 and a second-rounder.
Based on the three recent deals – which display a reluctance to fall too far from the top – the Sabres may have to swing a couple of trades to get the coveted first selection. They could make a deal with Nashville for No. 4, then ship that to Colorado.
Two teams have traded up from No. 8 in the last 25 years. In 1992, the New York Islanders dealt the eighth pick and a second-round selection to Toronto for No. 5. In 2004, Carolina sent the eighth pick and a second-round selection to Columbus for the No. 4 pick.
Buffalo has ammunition. In addition to the No. 8 pick, the Sabres have another first-rounder (No. 16) and a pair of second-round selections (Nos. 38 and 53). Goaltender Ryan Miller and leading scorer Thomas Vanek have made it known they’d be accepting of trades.
“The preliminary talks are that everybody’s talking about our young players to move up,” Devine said during an appearance on WGR 550 AM. “We’ve got to decide if it makes sense to move some of those players to move up. So it’s a difficult conversation, but if you’re really honed in on one guy and he can be a franchise changer, then you have to look at it.”