Although they didn’t win the NHL Draft lottery for the rights to the top pick, the Buffalo Sabres had a terrific opening night at BB&T Center.
After Edmonton took Connor McDavid first, the Sabres quickly took Boston University center Jack Eichel with the No.2 pick.
Buffalo general manager Tim Murray — who last stood on the draft stage in Sunrise after the Panthers’ scouting director when Florida took Stephen Weiss fourth overall in 2001 — didn’t ponder the Eichel pick very much but was still quite busy.
Murray made two trades on Friday — the biggest getting center Ryan O’Reilly and winger Jamie McGinn from Colorado in exchange for three players and a second-round pick to kick off Saturday.
Earlier in the day, the Sabres got goalie Robin Lehner and veteran David Legwand for their 21st overall pick.
Buffalo had previously traded a first-round pick to Winnipeg for Evander Kane.
“If you would have told me the last day we had the three before the Kane trade that on this day we’re getting Eichel, Kane and Lehner, I would have said you’re on mushrooms,” Murray told the Buffalo News after the Lehner deal.
“I would have said, ‘There’s no way that’s going to happen. We’re going to end up with one great prospect and two other good prospects and we’ll see how it goes’”
Afterward, Murray wasn’t as short as he was on the podium. But close.
“It’s part of the job,’’ he said. “We’re excited obviously. It was a good day.’’
Buffalo wasn’t the only team wheeling and dealing in South Florida.
The Bruins were also extremely active, trading defenseman Dougie Hamilton to Calgary and Milan Lucic to Los Angeles.
Boston came into the day with the 14th overall pick, but surrounded it with the 13th and 15th after the two deals.
Rumors swirled that the Bruins were positioning themselves for a run at Arizona and the third overall pick, but the Coyotes kept it and took Dylan Strome.
With a weak upcoming free agency class, it was thought there would be plenty of trades on the first day of the NHL Draft on Friday.
Turns out the four deals that involved Buffalo or Boston were the only ones in which veteran players were moved.
With commissioner Gary Bettman not having to announce too many trades, the focus centered on the young talent gathered in Sunrise.
Although it was a foregone conclusion McDavid and Eichel would go 1-2 to Edmonton and Buffalo, there was some mystery about what would happen after that.
With Strome off to Arizona, Toronto went with forward Mitchell Marner at No.4, with Carolina getting a defenseman it needed in Boston College’s Noah Hanifin.
“I think it was even better than I was expecting,’’ McDavid said. “I didn’t know exactly how I was going to feel. I wasn’t too nervous, I was just anxious. It was just so exciting to hear your name.’’
Added Eichel: “It’s tough to put into words. I think just looking back on the entire year, it’s been the best year of my life. This just really caps it off. You hear a lot about the draft and everything that goes on here, but until you hear your name called and you go on stage and put a jersey on, there’s nothing like it. It’s an unbelievable feeling.’’