Tim Murray talks this morning. ©2016, Margaret Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres GM Tim Murray on acquiring Jimmy Vesey’s rights: ‘It’s a gamble’

BUFFALO – If Tim Murray wants to lure winger Jimmy Vesey to the Sabres, the general manager has a strong recruiter in center Jack Eichel, who’s currently playing summer hockey with the Hobey Baker Award winner in their native Massachusetts.

“We might potentially use Jack as a tool,” Murray said this morning, less than a day after acquiring Vesey’s rights from the Nashville Predators. “I guess I would be a tool not to.”

The Sabres traded a 2016 third-round pick, 76th overall, for the former Harvard University star, who refused to sign with the Predators after completing his senior season in March.

Murray said he hasn’t talked to Eichel about Vesey this summer, meaning he could have spoken to him earlier this week. The Sabres own Vesey’s rights until Aug. 15. They can’t sign him until July 1.

The Sabres had 12 picks in this weekend’s NHL Draft, which the team is hosting. To Murray, trading one of their four third-rounders is “not a bold move to me.”

“It’s a gamble,” he said.

Still, it’s a gamble Murray’s clearly comfortable with. According to the Sabres’ metric, teams only draft players like Vesey in the third round 7 percent of the time. Nashville drafted Vesey in the third round, 66th overall, in 2012.

“To me, he’s got top-six potential,” Murray said during a pre-draft news conference inside the First Niagara Center. “If we do get him signed, we’re not going to tell you he’s in our top six, but that’s his potential, that’s his pro rating for us. He’s a complete forward. He’s big and strong. He can shoot the puck but he can also make plays. He’s got a great hockey IQ.”

Vesey, 23, compiled 80 goals and 144 points in 128 NCAA games. Following a 24-goal, 46-point senior season in which Vesey was named college hockey’s top player, he stayed in school instead of joining Nashville for its playoff run

Peter Donatelli, one of Vesey’s agents, told ESPN.com on Monday his client still plans to become an unrestricted free agent.

“I would expect that that would be their answer,” Murray said. “They haven’t sat down and talked to us. To me, it’s like a college free agent recruiting process. So we haven’t began our recruiting yet. We just happen to have exclusive rights to recruit.”

Check back later for more.

In draft news, Murray doesn’t sound interested in moving up from the No. 8 pick. He said the Sabres have narrowed their first pick to three players.

“The price is going to be awful high and I know we’re going to get a good player at eight,” he said.

Columbus Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen recently told Murray he wanted to keep the No. 3 pick.

“I believe you’d had to knock both socks off and a couple pairs out of his drawer, too,” Murray said.

Check back later for more draft news.

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