PHILADELPHIA – In his first draft as Buffalo Sabres general manager, Tim Murray drafted the sons of former NHL players Paul Reinhart, Claude Lemieux and Doug Brown. So should we infer pro pedigree will be high on Murray’s mind when building his cachet of prospects?
Not really. For one, Reinhart was an elite center the Sabres have targeted for months who just happened to have a father who had a long NHL career and two brothers who have been recent draftees.
For another, Murray simply thinks some societal trends are at work.
“It just happens we’re seeing a generation of ex-players’ sons who maybe the father paid more attention to and hockey was more important,” Murray said after Saturday’s session at Wells Fargo Center. “These parents are hands-on, taking their kids to the dressing room. The NHL has changed, become more of a family atmosphere.”
Second-round pick Brendan Lemieux, for instance, spent plenty of time in NHL locker rooms in places like Denver and New Jersey. Sixth-rounder Christopher Brown is the son of longtime NHLer Doug Brown and the nephew of Greg Brown, a 1986 second-round pick of the Sabres who played 49 games for Buffalo from 1990-92 and was on two U.S. Olympic teams.
This draft was filled with connections like the sons of Michael Nylander, Sami Kapanen and Al MacInnis all getting picked as well as four former Sabres connections.
“When I started, there were no kids coming in the dressing room,” Murray said. “The players were going out for a beer or for lunch together. Now they’re going home, taking their kids to school.
“Society has changed. That’s pretty deep for me but that’s what I see. You’re seeing more and more kids, nephews’ kids that have come through the game and becoming players. The head starts they have is off the ice. Nutrition, working out. They’re more in tune to what it takes to being a pro.”
Among ex-Sabres relatives, Detroit took Portland center Dominic Turgeon (Pierre’s son) with the third pick of the third round, Chicago took Minnesota high school defenseman Luc Snuggerud (Dave’s nephew) late in round five and Montreal took Sherbrooke center Daniel Audette (Donald’s son) six picks after Snuggerud.
With the 208th pick overall, three from the end of the selections, Chicago took Penticton winger Jack Ramsey (Mike’s son).
The NHL’s salary cap numbers announced Friday were an upper limit of $69 million and a floor of $51 million; the Sabres currently stand more than $17 million shy of that floor.
Several teams were hoping for a cap in the lower 70s and now may need to dump some contracts to open room for free agency, which starts Tuesday.
“I asked a couple guys that were up at the top and it wasn’t a drastic fall for them but even a little bit for some teams is a lot,” Murray said. “I suspect that will impact us in the next couple days. I didn’t think it will help us or hinder us here but it may put a couple more players in play and that’s always good for a team like us.”
Murray said the Sabres are still contemplating what to do with their restricted free agents, as the NHL’s Monday afternoon deadline looms to make them qualifying offers.
The list includes prominent names such as Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno, Cory Conacher, Chad Ruhwedel and Jamie McBain. Others who saw time in Buffalo last year include Luke Adam, Connor Knapp and injured goalie Matt Hackett.
“I talk about it every day internally,” Murray said. “I’ll just leave it that there are guys who won’t be qualified.”
The Sabres are known to be working on extensions for Ennis and Foligno, and Murray has expressed interest in retaining Ruhwedel and Conacher, the former Canisius College star. There’s a good chance that McBain, who made $1.9 million last season, won’t be back. He had six goals and 11 assists in 69 games but was a defensive liability on many nights.
Arizona general manager Don Maloney told The News that former Sabres GM Darcy Regier remains in the mix to join the Coyotes as an assistant GM.
“Is he a candidate? Absolutely,” Maloney said. “Rare is it that you have one manager, one assistant. Teams now have three and four people in a management team and that’s what we’re looking for.”
Maloney would not go into specifics on interviews with Regier or any other candidate.
“There’s a number of very good, experienced qualified people that I know and would like to bring on board,” he said. “In all candor, the new year starts July 1 in the hockey world so I’m hoping to get something settled in the very near future.”
Maloney, the longtime former New York Rangers winger, worked with Regier when both were in the front office of the New York Islanders. Maloney was the GM on Long Island from 1992-95.
Marking your calendars already for the Connor McDavid/Jack Eichel Sweepstakes? The 2015 draft will be on June 26-27 at the home of the Florida Panthers, BB&T Center in Sunrise.
The league has not yet awarded the 2016 draft.