Beyond Jack Eichel, Tim Murray and the Buffalo Sabres Will Have Options at the NHL Draft

Sabres General Manager Tim Murray. Photo via sabres.nhl.com

Sabres General Manager Tim Murray. Photo via sabres.nhl.com

The 2015 NHL Entry Draft is just days away now. It projects to be an exciting day in the world of hockey. This year’s draft class is a special one- it includes not one, but two generational talents who will officially join their respective NHL franchises Friday night. Behind Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, the 2015 draft class is talented and deep. Lots of teams are going to go home with a player they are very happy with. 
In addition to the drafting of these highly regarded prospects, it is expected to see some big trades come to fruition right on the draft floor down in Sunrise, FL. The Buffalo Sabres and GM Tim Murray project to be right in the midst of it all. They will have no trouble taking Jack Eichel with the second pick and taking some happy photos. But after that it is right back to work, and the Sabres can go in numerous directions after selecting Eichel second overall. With this is in mind, let’s examine what Tim Murray should have game planned heading into Friday night.   

Plan A.) Trade for Ryan O’Reilly
O’Reilly has been a name associated with the Sabres for a long time now. I truly believe that beyond drafting Jack Eichel this is Tim Murray’s top priority on draft night. Picturing myself as an armchair GM, I would offer Colorado pick 21, Johan Larsson, and Jake McCabe for Ryan O’Reilly. If I need to sweeten the offer, pick 31 and Mikhail Grigorenko could also be included. I would have to think very hard about including Zach Bogosian or Nikita Zadorov in an offer.
I wrote about ROR and the Sabres back in March and will be posting a follow-up article tomorrow, revisiting a trade for ROR. So be on the lookout tomorrow morning! We will go over this plan thoroughly.

Plan B.) Trade up from pick 21
I love the idea of moving up in this draft somewhere in the top 12. In that range I am high on Zack Werenski, Timo Meier, and Mikko Rantanen. It is likely that one of the three will be available at pick 11 where I see a potential trade partner. The Florida Panthers hold the 11th selection in Friday’s draft but do not pick again until 77th. The Sabres perhaps could entice the Panthers with an exchange of picks 21 & 31 for 11. If any of Werenski, Meier, or Rantanen are still on the board, I like that trade.

Plan C.) Pick as is
I wouldn’t mind if the Sabres stood still and drafted as is. For ‘Plan C,’ I have the Sabres taking a high risk-reward forward and a solid defensemen with picks 21/31. Some high risk-reward forwards include Daniel Sprong, Brock Boeser, Denis Gurianov, and Jeremy Bracco. While some nice defensemen include, Thomas Chabot, Jeremy Roy, Jakub Zboril and Vince Dunn. In this scenario I love goaltenders Daniel Vladar and Mackenzie Blackwood at 51 if they are still available. 

Plan D.) Move up a few picks from 21
It would require sending picks 21 and 51 to a team in the 15-19 range. Murray and his staff might really like someone in this range (maybe Travis Konecny) and go get their guy. This could be a useful strategy if a player they like drops.

Travis Konecny (Ottawa 67's, OHL) is rated number 14 among North American skaters by Central Scouting. Photo via Matthew Usherwood/Ottawa Sun

Travis Konecny (Ottawa 67's, OHL) is rated number 14 among North American skaters by Central Scouting. Photo via Matthew Usherwood/Ottawa Sun

Plan E.) Take Ilya Samsonov at pick 21
I know... this is the same as picking as is. But I wanted to segregate this as its' own option. The top rated goaltender might be available at 21. Murray could snag his goalie of the future here and use picks 31 & 51 on organizational depth. I like Samsonov but also think Vladar and Blackwood are great value at 51.

Plan F.) Trade for a goalie from another NHL roster
Robin Lehner, Cam Talbot, Eddie Lack, Craig Anderson are some options that jump to mind, but personally I don’t like this idea. This a strong class for goalies and I’d rather pick and groom one. Considering the Sabres need to spend a substantial amount of money just to reach the cap floor, it just makes too much sense to sign Antii Niemi. Signing Niemi for three years at five million per and using him as a bridge while one of Samsonov, Blackwood, or Vladar develops is a smart option.  

 

As you can see, Tim Murray and the Buffalo Sabres have plenty of options on draft night and will remain busy after selecting Jack Eichel. Expect to see one or more of these scenarios playout on Friday night. The question is, which ones? For that, we will have to wait and see. 

As always, your comments are encouraged below.