June 21, 2016

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) The Buffalo Sabres are on forward Jimmy Vesey's shortlist.

So, too, is college hockey's top player's desire to test free agency.

Those are the two options weighing on Vesey's mind, the player's agent, Peter Fish, told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

''No, I wouldn't rule anything out at this point, absolutely not,'' Fish said by phone a day after the Sabres acquired Vesey's rights in a trade with Nashville.

''It's a great franchise and a great spot for players in my opinion, and I'm sure the Sabres are on the shortlist of teams Jimmy Vesey is going to entertain at the right time.''

The right time, however, might not be until after Vesey becomes an unrestricted free agent on Aug. 15.

''His plan all along was to see it through,'' Fish added. ''And everything that's he's been through with the whole thing in Nashville would be kind of silly not to try to play it out as best as possible.''

The Sabres took a calculated risk in giving up their second of four third-round draft picks to essentially gain exclusive negotiating rights with no guarantee the 23-year-old will sign a contract.

In March, Vesey shocked the Predators by informing them he was opting to become a free agent rather than sign with Nashville, which selected him in the third round of the 2012 draft. The forward is coming off his senior year at Harvard in which he led the team in scoring and won the Hobey Baker Award.

Fish said he's scheduled to meet with Sabres general manager Tim Murray at the NHL draft being held in Buffalo this weekend.

''I think we'll continue talking to the Sabres before Aug. 15, there's no question about that,'' he said. ''But as of now, the plan is to stay the course.''

Fish's statements go beyond the comments his partner, Peter Donatelli, issued to ESPN.com immediately following the trade.

''In our opinion, the only thing that has happened is now the Sabres have stepped into the shoes of Nashville for exclusive rights until Aug. 15,'' Donatelli was quoted as saying. ''However, at this time, it doesn't change Jimmy Vesey's intention to become a free agent on Aug. 15.''

Addressing reporters during the Sabres pre-draft news conference on Tuesday, Murray said he wasn't surprised by Donatelli's comments.

''I have no issue with the statement whatsoever,'' Murray said. ''They haven't sat down and talked to us. To me it's like a college free-agent recruiting process. We haven't begun our recruiting yet.''

Murray said he intends to get Sabres forward Jack Eichel involved in trying to convince Vesey to sign with the Sabres. Eichel and Vesey are from Massachusetts, have played together on various teams and are represented by the same agency.

Under NHL rules, the Sabres are allowed to open contract negotiations, but can't sign Vesey until July 1.

Acquiring Vesey is just one of several splashes Murray hopes to make to improve the Sabres in the coming weeks.

With 11 draft picks through seven rounds, Murray said he intends to use some of them as trade bait to add players.

The one selection he might not move is Buffalo's first-round pick, eighth overall. Murray said the possibility of trading up is unlikely based on conversations he's had with teams ahead of him, including Columbus, which picks third.

The Sabres have a particular need to add defensive depth.

Murray expects to be busy in adding experienced talent through trades or in free agency, which opens on July 1.

Without mentioning Steven Stamkos by name, Murray dismissed speculation that the Sabres are set to make an offer to the Tampa Bay captain should he not re-sign with the Lightning.

''I think everybody knows that whoever goes after him is going to be spending a lot of money,'' Murray said. ''We haven't really discussed a firm offer internally.''

Murray is eager to continue improving a team that finished 23rd in the NHL standings after two consecutive last-place finishes.

''We want to get going here. We made a big jump last year,'' Murray said. ''But it's time to take another big jump.''

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