Entering the free agency market, the Buffalo Sabres made it a priority to find veteran players who could not only produce points, but add some leadership to the team.
“We’re more competitive. We have a lot of character now. We have leadership now. That’s important to me when we’re adding young players every year,” he said at First Niagara Center.
“There’s a short term and a long term and the long term is your young players get better. Your young players become pros. They’re not just good players, they’re good NHL players. And I think this group that we’ve added today can help in that regard.”
Adding these players will help both the young players on the roster like Zemgus Girgensons, Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno (whom the team also re-signed to a two-year contract) and Tyler Myers and the players coming up in the system like 2014 first-round pick Samson Reinhart.
Gionta, 35 and a native of Greece, N.Y., who spent the past five years with the Montreal Canadiens, is expected to provide that guidance.
“Yesterday he was the captain of the Montreal Canadiens, a storied franchise, a playoff team. That wasn’t a token title. That was real,” Murray said. “There is stuff in this game that’s real and stuff that’s not real. And that’s real stuff. That’s legendary stuff. And he’s now a Buffalo Sabre.”
Murray said he thought the day’s acquisitions – Gionta in particular – can serve as mentors to a player like Reinhart and help him make the team in the fall.
“It’s going to make it easier for him, for sure. It’s going to allow him to play his game a little more. It’s going to allow him to not look over his shoulder so often,” Murray said. “I think it gives him a comfort level that if he does come into camp prepared, that he’s got people around him that can help him.
“And if he makes the team and plays great out of the gate and all that – we know he’s going to hit rough patches. We know he’s going to hit speed dumps and that’s what these guys are here for – besides playing, they’re here to help our young guys get over those rough patches and we’re going to have them.”
There’s no doubt in Murray’s mind that the players in the organization are looking at these moves and thinking that the organization is serious about turning things around.
“I think our kids are sitting at home going, ‘Wow,’ you know? They know these players,” he said. “They watch the National Hockey League and they know the quality of the player, they know the quality of the person, they know the character.
“As excited as they are to get drafted by Buffalo in the last couple years, they know it’s a team that’s not there. We can say it’s a team on the rise. People have to see that. I just think there’s some kids at home saying, ‘This is great.’”
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