Murray: 'We recognize where we have to get better'

Hear from the Sabres general manager as the 2016-17 season nears its end

Schopp & Bulldog | Weekdays 3p-7p
March 21, 2017 - 10:11 pm

Photo: Kevin Hoffman - USA TODAY Sports

With the playoffs pretty much out of reach, the Buffalo Sabres are playing for pride and the future of the team moving forward. Sabres general manager Tim Murray joined Schopp and the Bulldog on Tuesday to discuss the evaluation of his team, the head coach and himself. Murray also talked about issues with fixing the defense, the expansion draft and handling his prospects.

Murray still has a job to do with the season nearing its end. "Well, I think we all get judged every game through the season," Murray said. "I'll be evaluated by ownership at the end of the year and the players and coaches will be evaluated by me at the end of the year. I think the season has to run its course, at the end of your season you have a sit down with your players. I'll have a meeting with all of our players and get their feedback, I'll have a meeting with the coaches and get their feedback. So, you're judging every night, you're evaluating every night."

One of the largest holes on the team this season has been the performance of the defense. "We recognize where we have to get better and it's certainly our goal and on our mind every day," Murray said. "I thought, at the start of the year, with our blue line, it might be good enough to be a playoff team. I didn't think it was good enough to be a Stanley Cup contender or a top 10 team in the league, but I thought playoff-wise it might be good enough."

He had some interesting comments regarding his trade with the Florida Panthers at the 2016 NHL Draft for Dmitry Kulikov, "When I traded for Kulikov, I thought I was getting a top three defenseman. I didn't know if he could play all year with [Rasmus] Ristolainen if that's where he fit or if it was going to be somebody else there and then him solidifying the bottom four. I think that watching him last year in the playoffs with Florida, I was pretty excited to be able to make that deal at the time and right now we can all sit here and say that it didn't work out. And I accept that and I take responsibility for that."

Despite the team's issues, Murray does seem to have a plan in place with the expansion draft, "Everything is in play, including trades with teams that may have an issue with the expansion draft coming [with defense]..." Murray stated. "It has affected business a little bit, but for us, I think we're in good shape. I won't say we've made our final decision on the seven forwards protected or anything like that, but we are in good shape and we have players that do fit the criteria for Las Vegas to pick."

One of the possible concerns with the Sabres on a long-term basis is the status of goaltending prospect, Cal Petersen. Petersen has been fantastic this season playing for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the college ranks. Murray wants to get Petersen signed to an entry-level deal as soon as possible, and he feels that it is about time for him to make he jump to the pro ranks.

"We like him, obviously a lot, as a prospect," Murray said. "We like his body of work - love his body of work - as far as development goes. He can't do anymore than he's done to develop and become better."

There is also the chance that Petersen could test unrestricted free agency, a la Jimmy Vesey. However, Murray doesn't seem too concerned about that scenario, "The decision is going to come to him, his family and his representatives. But I think that our staff has done a good job with him. He's been treated more than fairly by the organization and I think that's what you have to do for young players. You have to have them have a want to be part of your organization. Hopefully that is there with this kid right now."

If Petersen does elect to go to free agency, he will officially hit the open market at midnight on August 16.

You can listen to Murray's interview in its entirety with Schopp and the Bulldog below:

3-21 Tim Murray with Schopp and the Bulldog

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