Less than two hours had passed since the 2015 Trade Deadline had expired. All pending deals had been completed and finalized by the National Hockey League.
While his process took place, Buffalo Sabres General Manager Tim Murray awaited his moment to speak to local media in the First Niagara Center media room, looking forward to explaining his thought process throughout the day’s preceding events.
Mired in what may very well go down as the worst back-to-back stretch of seasons in Sabres’ history, Murray approached the microphone and stood his ground.
“We’ve just acquired future assets, that’s how we made the team better,” Murray asserted. “We’re in 30th place, our time is the future, and we added assets for the future.”
After the clock had hit zero on the deadline, Tim Murray had collected quite a mixed bag of assets. Within the past month, Murray traded away five expiring contracts, 1 deal with considerable term, and one pending restricted free agent.
In return, Murray acquired five draft picks, two goaltenders, a forward, a defenseman and two prospects.
“The goal was to add assets, if we could,” Murray affirmed. “Along the way, if we could put them (traded players) in a good spot, that was a bonus. But, we had to do what was best for the organization. It’s never a good day trading good people away. They all understood, and were somewhat happy with their destinations.”
These moves seemed to please most of the Sabres faithful, but not everyone found themselves happy. A small contingent of media, skeptical of Murray’s continuing direction, were met a straight response from Murray.
“I was brought in here a year and a month, 13 months ago, into a team that was in the middle of a rebuild,” Murray explained. “I’m going to continue the rebuild, and get better.”
While the current direction of the Sabres may seem a little muddled, it appears that Tim Murray knows exactly how he wants to guide this team back to contention: use draft picks to select players, or use those same picks as currency in the trade market.
Following Murray’s deadline day haul, the Sabres own a combined nine first and second round picks in the next three Entry Level Drafts.
“I know we have a lot of draft picks that can be used for something other than selecting players on draft day,” Murray said. “That’s why I believe they’re valuable assets.”
Perfect example of an acquired pick being used for trade leverage? Buffalo’s acquisition of Zach Bogosian and Evander Kane from the Winnipeg Jets, just a few weeks ago.
“I know we needed to trade a first in this draft to get two former firsts in Kane and Bogosian,” said Murray. “You can’t acquire players like that for nothing. You have to decide if you’re willing to pay that price for an asset. I felt it was the right price to pay.”
The one thing Tim Murray will have nothing of is accusations of “tanking”, brought on by the busy trade season in Buffalo.
“I’ve never been told to finish last,” proclaimed Murray. “I’ve never thought of it that way (losing as winning). My history in hockey, when you’re at the bottom, or near the bottom, you trade out guys who can help other teams for future assets. That’s how I look at it.”
While collecting future assets might be the logical way to contention, some fans have begun to grow a little impatient, while many others openly clamor for Murray to be able to put a timeline on this current rebuilding state of the Buffalo Sabres.
“A timeline is hard,” Murray told the media. “Three days before the Winnipeg trade, I did not know that trade was available. Is another one of those going to come to us? I don’t know what. You talk to people every day, you let your intentions be known.”
Clearly, Tim Murray has both an immediate and long-term plan for the future of this franchise.
If the recent history of the National Hockey League has shown us anything, with teams like Chicago and Los Angeles, patience might just end up being a virtue for these longing fans.