As the 2013 NHL Draft approaches, the Buffalo Sabres have had conversations about improving their draft position, but are finding that it may be difficult to do so.
Sabres general manager Darcy Regier and Kevin Devine, the director of amateur scouting, spoke with the media Thursday afternoon at First Niagara Center to discuss the draft, which will take place on Sunday, June 30 in Newark, N.J.
The Sabres hold 10 picks in the draft including four in the first two rounds. Buffalo’s highest selections will come at Nos. 8, 16, 38 and 52.
Regier was in Boston on Wednesday for meetings with the League’s other GMs and said the teams that hold picks in the top four are reluctant to move out of those spots.
“I would characterize the draft and primarily the ability to move in the draft -- to move up into those top spots -- will be extremely difficult if not impossible given the conversations that I have had as recently as [Wednesday],” Regier said.
In at least one instance, Regier said that a GM with a pick above the Sabres told him that his team is not entertaining any offers and is going to make a selection with the pick that they have.
“We’re exploring all the options,” Regier said. “We’ll continue to try and move up, but as I said, it appears now that teams are getting more locked into keeping the pick and making the selection at that place. So we’ll see if that changes going into the draft.”
Trading down in the first round is also an option and Devine indicated that if the team explores that route, it will likely be with the No. 16 pick. They will, however, continue to make calls to the teams in the top seven to see if moving up becomes a more viable option.
“We’re going to get two good players here [in the first round], but the cost of what we’d have to give up to get that franchise player would also set us back depth-wise,” Devine said. “I think we just have to keep working at it.”
Picking near the top of the second round might also yield talent that would be considered first-round quality in other years.
“The 38th pick would be close. That’s how deep the draft is,” Devine said.
When asked about the futures of starting goaltender Ryan Miller and leading scorer Thomas Vanek, Regier said that would prefer to have both next season, but that the players are exploring their options.
Miller and Vanek are set to become unrestricted free agents after the 2013-14 season. Regier said he has spoken with Miller’s agent last week, will speak with Vanek’s agent next week and plans to have conversations with both players in the future. Regier also said that there are many different scenarios involving those players and their careers with the Sabres.
“One of those options is that those players will remain here next year because the market is going to dictate in large part what we’re able to do in order to help the organization,” Regier said.
The team has no plans to use either of their two compliance buyouts on any players this summer, according to Regier. They have until July 4 to make that decision.
The team also signed goaltender Jhonas Enroth to a two-year contract extension Thursday morning. Enroth, who was a restricted free agent, posted a record of 4-1-1 with a 1.47 goals-against average and a .956 save percentage in his final six starts of the 2012-13 season. He was 4-4-2 in 12 games played.
“I think that given [Enroth’s] age, his experience [and] what he’s been through, he’s in a great position to really advance his career at this point,” Regier said.
Enroth played for Team Sweden in the 2013 IIHF World Championship in May. He was named the tournament’s best goaltender and backstopped Sweden to a gold medal in front of a home crowd. His strong play at the end of the NHL season and in that tournament has both Enroth and Regier hopeful about the netminder’s future.
Regier said that he’s convinced that “at some point in his career, he’s going to be a No. 1 goaltender.”
Both Regier and Enroth pointed to his start against the New Jersey Devils on March 7, his first for coach Ron Rolston, as the one that helped turn his season around.
“The biggest thing is I think, after that point, I told myself to go out and relax and play like I know I can. That worked for me the last couple months,” Enroth said.
Miller is still under contract for one more season, and while his future in Buffalo may be a question mark, Enroth said he isn’t focused on that at all.
“Obviously I care what’s going to happen with [Miller]. He’s a very good friend of mine and I look up to him a lot. I wish all the best. Whatever happens, happens. Who know what’s going to happen?” Enroth said. “I try not to worry about that too much right now and just try to get ready and get in shape for the season.”
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