When Sabres GM Tim Murray mentioned that he was surprised at how much interest there was in the Buffalo Sabres, it was hard to gauge just how much.
Talk is talk but putting signatures to a contract is another matter.
And when Murray mentioned that the interest in Buffalo came from legitimate NHL players, we weren't really sure just how legit.
For Buffalo Sabres fans, the start to free agent yesterday was a somewhat of a shocker.
In a good way.
Murray inked five legitimate NHL'ers who, he said, "wanted to come to here."
"We finished in 30th place," he continued, "and today shows that there are quality players that want to come here. And there were more than what we got done. There were other choices. There still are. These were the guys we thought that we should go forward quickly with for what we wanted to achieve."
Nobody's sure how the dominoes fell, but Rochester native, and Stanley Cup winner (2003, NJD) Brian Gionta signed a three year contract worth $12.75M.
Gionta was the Montreal Canadians captain last season which was a fact not lost upon Murray. “Yesterday he was the captain of the Montreal Canadians, a storied franchise, a playoff team. That wasn’t a token title. That was real,” he 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.”
Fellow Canadian, defenseman Josh Gorges followed his captain to Buffalo.
Gorges had a limited no-trade clause and originally Buffalo was not on his list of preferred. That changed, presumably because of Gionta signing. Murray received a call from Gorges agent and soon the Sabres traded a 2016 second round pick (MIN acquired in the Matt Moulson/Cody McCormick trade) to the Canadians for Gorges.
In a sign of the faith that players are beginning to have in what's happening Buffalo, Gorges balked at a pitch from Toronto, to join the Sabres.
Moulson and McCormick are also headed back to Buffalo. Moulson signed a 5yr./$25M contract with the team which is well under what he may have been able to get elsewhere.
Murray said Moulson was "thrilled" at the prospect of signing with the Sabres. Come to find out that Buffalo was first on his list of destinations.
Finally, to top things off, defenseman Andre Meszaros signed a one year deal with Buffalo. Murray simply stated that there are two options for his former player in Ottawa, either moving forward with the Sabres or being traded to a contender at the trade deadline.
It's something they did with Moulson, and that worked out very well both the player and the team.
Yesterday was a far cry from what us Sabres fans are accustomed to. Instead of signing second and third tier players later in the day or even days later, the Sabres seemed be way out in front of other teams.
It took 2 hours and 15 minutes for Murray to add five players. All of them will be counted on to provide leadership and all were brought on board because they are professional hockey players.
Murray has been getting his props, but there's plenty of credit that can be tossed around and you can start at the top with owner Terry Pegula.
Pegula stated from the get-go that he wanted to do all he could to make Buffalo an attractive destination for NHL players. From the remodeling and the harbor center to the release of financial chains in all areas of the organization, he has caught the attention of the hockey community.
Mad props also need to go to both Darcy Regier and Kevin Devine.
Say what you will about the former general manager, but he deconstructed his own core and got a king's ransom in return.
That king's ransom was mainly in the form of draft picks.
In those drafts, Devine and his merry band of scouts turned the Sabres into the top organization for prospects. And that was before this year when they added 2nd-overall pick Sam Reinhart and next year when they'll have three first round picks in a very, very strong draft.
When you have players that enjoyed playing for Buffalo and want to come back, like Moulson and McCormick, word gets out that the much-derided city may not be all that bad.
And when you look at what the future holds for this team, it's an extremely attractive proposition.
In 2 hours and 15 minutes, or less than the time it took the Pegula's to fly to Calgary three years ago, the Buffalo Sabres served notice that they're getting this thing rolling.
You're either on the bus or off the bus.