BUFFALO – The trade was almost complete. The Sabres and Florida Panthers had agreed to swap defensemen Mark Pysyk and Dmitry Kulikov as the main components.
But the sides hadn’t worked out draft picks yet. Originally, general manager Tim Murray wanted to give the Sabres’ first third-round pick, 69th overall, to his counterpart, Tom Rowe, at the NHL Draft.
Murray went back to Rowe on Saturday morning and offered his last third-rounder, 89th overall, and said he wanted to flip-flop second-round picks. Swedish center Rasmus Asplund, the only player with a ‘5’ rating left on Buffalo’s draft board, was available.
Rowe agreed, and the teams completed the trade by swapping the 33rd and 38th picks. Murray then used that pick to draft the 5-foot-11, 176-pound Asplund, who the Sabres rated as a first-rounder.
“I think I’m a strong-skating, two-way center, sees guys real well, really make the guys he plays with better,” an excited Asplund said inside the First Niagara Center.
Asplund scored four goals and 12 points in 46 games with Farjestads BK Karlstad in the Swedish Hockey League last season. Early in the winter at the world junior championship, Asplund centered Alexander Nylander, the winger the Sabres drafted eighth overall Friday.
“He was one of the guys I had the best chemistry with in my whole career,” Asplund said.
Seeing the Sabres move up to grab him was special, Asplund said.
“It proved that they really believe in me and really want me to get here,” he said.
Asplund, 18, said he will likely play in Sweden again next season. He said he spoke to the Sabres two or three times before the draft.
The Sabres’ final eight selections Saturday are below. Murray said the team “drafted skill and speed.”
“Some of them may lack a little size,” he said.
Cliff Pu, 6-foot-2, 193-pound winger, Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights, third round, 69th overall
Pu, 18, had 12 goals and 31 points in 63 games last season before scoring eight goals and 13 points in 18 playoff contests.
“I try to play like someone like Jeff Carter,” Pu said. “He used his size and speed to his advantage. I got a lot more skill to try to match.”
Pu’s father left China for Canada when he was in his mid-20s.
Casey Fitzgerald, 5-foot-10, 186-pound defenseman, Boston College, third round, 86th overall
Fitzgerald, 19, had four goals and 29 points in 37 games last season. He was passed over in the draft last year.
“I’m a two-way defender,” Fitzgerald said. “I think I can play both ends. I’m steady in the defensive end … and I can jump up in the rush.”
Fitzgerald’s father, Tom, played 1,097 NHL games and is the New Jersey Devils’ assistant GM.
Brett Murray, 6-foot-4, 217-pound winger, junior Carleton Place Canadiens, fourth round, 99th overall
Murray, 17, had 14 goals and 48 points in 46 games last season. He plans to attend Penn State University in the fall.
“I like to play a power forward role, obviously use my size to win one-on-one battles in the corners, down low on the wall,” Murray said.
Philip Nyberg, 6-foot-3, 189-pound defenseman, Linkoping HC J20, Sweden, fifth round, 129th overall
Nyberg, 19, plans to play at the University of Wisconsin this fall.
Vojtech Budik, 6-foot-1, defenseman, Western Hockey League’s Prince Albert Raiders, fifth round, 130th overall
Budik, 18, had three goals and 16 points in 70 games.
“I’m a two-way defenseman,” Budik said.
Brandon Hagel, 5-foot-11, 161-pound winger, WHL’s Red Deer Rebels, sixth round, 159th overall
Hagel, 17, had 13 goals and 47 points in 72 games last season.
Austin Osmanski, 6-foot-3, 196-pound defenseman, OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads, seventh round, 189th overall
Osmanski, 18, an East Aurora native, had two goals and 10 points in 63 games last season as Nylander’s teammate.
Vasily Glotov, 5-foot-11, 158-pound, center from LVY St. Petersburg 2, Russia, seventh round, 190th overall
Glotov, 18, had 23 goals and 32 points in 42 games last season.
Sabres winger Evander Kane is under investigation for two criminal complaints for allegedly physically harassing two women at Bottoms Up, a Buffalo bar, according to WIVB and other media outlets.
“I’m not pleased to see the headline,” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said.
In December, Kane was under investigation for an alleged sex offense at a downtown hotel. He was cleared of wrongdoing in March.
Murray said he hasn’t spoken to Kane.
“I’ve heard the stories,” he said. “The very first part of it that came out didn’t sound very good, and the stuff I’ve heard since from people that have made statements that night, they say they didn’t make statements. I talked to … his agency. They’ve heard a different story than what was reported.
“I’m commenting, but I can’t comment in detail. I’ve got nothing to comment on. I don’t know all the details. I don’t know what’s right or wrong.”
Murray said he’s frustrated “it’s public, in the press.”
“But people live their lives,” he said. “If this is like the last one and in three days they say nothing happened and it goes away. Sure, it’s frustrating. I guess to me it’s a wait-and-see. If it’s true, then we have to deal with it. If it’s false again, then I guess we have to come off with a different plan of attack how to make sure that these accusations may not be true, how we stop them.”