Last night during an intermission at the Rochester Americans and Texas Stars AHL tilt in Rochester, Buffalo Sabres general manager Tim Murray gave a lengthy interview to WGR 550 discussing a wide range of topics.
Murray is still getting familiar with his team, especially his prospects in Rochester. He's been scuttling around the Northeast and Southern Ontario scouting his current prospects, as well as his potential future prospects playing in the OHL.
While Murray said a lot during the interview, here are five takeaways from the scrum:
1. Mark Pysyk and Johan Larsson have impressed him.
Not surprisingly, Murray has taken a liking to Larsson and Pysyk.
Referring to Larsson as a "competitive bugger" that "gives you everything he's got" and to Pysyk as a "smart, steady defenseman," Murray seems happy with their development thus far.
Getting more specific with Pysyk, Murray wants him to be more offensive in his game and to push himself at the AHL level to make that happen.
This was far from a criticism of the young defenseman though. The words steady and smart usually translate to a second-pairing guy, and the Sabres would be happy to see Pysyk end up in that role. However, if Pysyk were to develop more of an offensive side, including some improvements, he would easily slot into the Sabres' top pairing down the line.
A top pairing of Rasmus Ristolainen or Nikita Zadorov and Pysyk in a few years has the potential to be as frightening to opposing teams as the Shea Weber and Ryan Suter pairing the Nashville Predators trotted out a couple of years ago.
2. The Sabres' future in goal is far from certain.
While stating the Sabres have "a couple good young goalies" in Rochester, Murray would not commit to the notion that Ryan Miller's (assumed) replacement is already in the Buffalo system.
While Miller's future is still uncertain, Murray needs to go about his business as if his franchise netminder will be donning another sweater after March 5's trade deadline.
All four have shown flashes at their respective levels, but none have given Murray enough to go all-in with them.
The best goaltending prospect for the Sabres has likely been Linus Ullmark, a sixth-round selection in the 2012 Entry Draft, who has posted a 1.95 goals against average and a .935 save percentage in his rookie year for Modo of the Swedish Elite League.
Murray said he will "waffle" on the position in the coming months, but don't sleep on him looking to the crease in the upcoming draft in June. Assuming they acquire a late first-round pick in a trade, keep the name Thatcher Demko in mind.
Demko is a United States National Development Team veteran lighting it up for Boston College this season, sporting a 1.85 goals against average and a .934 save percentage. He is the top-rated goalie by the CSS in their midterm rankings.
3. Expect to see veterans from Rochester take the place of anyone traded.
When asked who would take the place of the guys that might be traded from the Sabres, Murray was not very forthcoming on whether it would be veterans or young guys filling the spots.
However, he did comment on how he felt it was important for the more inexperienced players to get some playoff experience, and the Amerks are currently in eighth place with a five point cushion with 26 games left. Murray also said he would not want to "gut" the Amerks either.
If the playoffs are a likelihood for Rochester, expect the return of Kevin Porter instead of the debut of Joel Armia. To bring back Larsson, Ristolainen, or most of the other young guys, would likely take Rochester out of contention, which is obviously something Murray has no intention of doing.
4. Murray is not concentrating on just acquiring picks and could deal for a young NHL-ready player.
Beyond reiterating that he is "all ears" and just "waiting for a dance partner," Murray said that while it seemed logical that the Sabres would be targeting more picks for the next two drafts, that is not their only option.
Murray said that the Sabres would be just as happy to acquire a "22-year old that can't find a spot in the organization he's with now."
While that seems like a general statement, reading between the lines it seems to show Murray's hand a bit.
While there is nothing reliable to link them to the Sabres, both Evander Kane of the Winnipeg Jets and Nazem Kadri of the Toronto Maple Leafs have been the subject of trade rumors for the majority of the season.
Kadri is 23 years old, Kane 22. Kadri has struggled to find a spot in Toronto's top-six forwards for the majority of the last two years, where Kane has come under fire from the Winnipeg media for his alleged off-ice behavior.
While stopping short of saying Murray is definitely in on these guys, it seems likely that he's at least done his due diligence on them. Both would immediately improve the Sabres' top-six, but both would be expensive, something also acknowledged by Murray.
But the idea is out there, and it makes a lot of sense for a rebuilding team: Trade a high pick and maybe a prospect for a guy that has NHL experience, but is young enough to still be a franchise pillar.
5. Murray is preparing for the possibility of more than one first-round pick.
While this may be an assumption for many Sabres fans, there are multiple ways that the Sabres could acquire additional first-round picks in the upcoming draft.
The most obvious way is by trading Ryan Miller, Matt Moulson and (possibly) Steve Ott.
Miller and Mouslon will most certainly come with a first-round pick price tag, and Ott has the potential to, depending on the market. While seeing all three turned into a first rounder this year is unlikely, you may see two this year and one next year or vice versa.
The other possible way to get into the first round is trading picks for picks. The Sabres hold three second rounders this and next year, so it is very possible to see some of them packaged to move up.
Murray acknowledged this in his interview saying that with the three firsts this year he can see two of the seconds "becoming [pick number] 15 or 19."
With that in mind, Murray commented that the Sabres have been looking not only at the top-ten ranked prospects, but those ranked in the top 30 as well. He also named some names that he was scouting personally, including Sam Reinhart, Sam Bennett, Leon Draisaitl, Michael Dal Colle and Aaron Ekblad.
Simply put, do not expect Murray to sit tight come June.
Follow me on Twitter for NHL and Sabres news all season: @SwordPlay18.