Tim Murray had barely hung up the phone on his last trade call when he started looking ahead. The NHL draft is in June, and the Sabres’ general manager can’t wait.
He hopes the next chance to wheel and deal is as productive and exciting as his first one.
Murray, as expected, was a busy man on trade-deadline day Wednesday. Buffalo’s new GM made three multiplayer deals and a waiver claim, continuing the reshaping of the organization he began Friday by trading Ryan Miller and Steve Ott.
“I’m not done,” Murray said in First Niagara Center. “There’s a lot of building to do.”
He and the Sabres have plenty of assets from which to build. For the next three drafts, Buffalo possesses five first-round picks, plus a conditional first-rounder, along with a half-dozen second-round selections and a conditional choice in round two.
“It’s a good day,” Murray said before flying to Tampa, Fla., where the Sabres play tonight. “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.
“A No. 2, 24-year-old left winger is going to fall out with his coach after they lose in the first round. Whatever the case may be, there’s always good, young players available at the draft. We still have a ton of picks to be players in that. We have young players to be players in that.
“We were a focus today, I think, and I think on draft day if those types of players are available, we can be a focus again. If they’re not available, we use the picks and hopefully keep adding top young talent.”
Murray, who just two months into his job has cemented a reputation as a stern-faced guy with little time for frivolity, actually smiled and joked a few times while reliving his day. It was an exciting one:
• Buffalo traded forwards Matt Moulson and Cody McCormick to the Minnesota Wild for two second-round picks and forward Torrey Mitchell. The 2014 pick acquired originally belonged to Winnipeg, while the other selection is in 2016.
• The Sabres sent goaltender Jaroslav Halak and a 2015 third-round pick to Washington for goalie Michal Neuvirth and veteran minor-league defenseman Rostislav Klesla.
• Buffalo acquired forward prospects Hudson Fasching and Nicolas Deslauriers from Los Angeles for minor leaguers Brayden McNabb and Jonathan Parker, plus second-round picks in 2014 and 2015. The picks actually came from the Kings in last year’s deal featuring Robyn Regehr.
• The Sabres claimed former Canisius College star Cory Conacher off waivers from Ottawa.
“I knew we had some guys that we could possibly move, and which direction we were going to go I wasn’t quite sure,” Murray said. “You do a lot of listening and then you discuss each proposal and make what you hope is the right decision.”
The departures of Moulson and Halak, a pair of pending unrestricted free agents, were expected. The deal that sent McNabb, who’s played 37 games for the Sabres, and two picks to Los Angeles was not part of the plan. Murray’s admiration of Fasching and Deslauriers made it too irresistible to pass up.
Fasching, 18, is excelling on the first line for the University of Minnesota, which is the No. 1-ranked team in the NCAA. The 6-foot-2, 213-pound right winger is third on the Gophers with 27 points in 31 games. Six of his 12 goals came in the last 10 outings. Fasching, drafted in the fourth round last June, also had two goals and four points for the United States at the world junior championships.
“He’s a guy that we’ve liked, that I’ve liked for a long time,” Murray said. “He has a chance to be a top-six forward if he develops properly.”
Deslauriers, a third-round pick in 2009, is a 6-1, 230-pound winger who played defense until this season. He’s embraced the switch and has 18 goals and 39 points with the Kings’ Manchester AHL team. He and Klesla will report to Rochester.
Murray views Neuvirth as an alluring reclamation project. The Capitals’ backup, who has appeared in 134 NHL games, is 4-6-2 with a 2.82 goals-against average and .914 save percentage. Murray believes the 25-year-old can live up to his standing as a 2006 second-round pick.
“For whatever reason, he’s a backup there and he’s just not as important as he wants to be,” Murray said. “I think when he gets to feel some love again or whatever you want to call it and has an opportunity, then he can get his game back.”
The Sabres needed to acquire the 29-year-old Mitchell and his $1.9 million salary-cap hit to get the deal done for Moulson, who was one of the top names on the market. Mitchell, who has 35 goals and 90 points in 383 games, has one year and $2.5 million in salary left on his contract.
It was the second straight year in which the Sabres made a deadline deal with the Wild, who picked up Jason Pominville last season.
The departure of Moulson, acquired in October as part of the trade that sent Thomas Vanek to the Islanders, closes the book on Buffalo’s former scoring leader. The Sabres essentially sent out Vanek (while retaining $2.1 million of his salary) and McCormick to get back a first-round pick in 2014 or 2015, three second-round selections and Mitchell.
New York traded Vanek to Montreal on Wednesday for prospect Sebastian Collberg and a conditional second-round pick.
Judging by Murray’s cheerful demeanor, he hopes June is much, much busier.
“We have to add players,” the GM said. “We have to create inter-competition, and this is the start of it.”