Mark Mulville/Buffalo News
DENVER – Jamie McGinn sees the guys in the Sabres’ dressing room building something special. His teammates say he’s an important part of it. That’s why Tim Murray has a crucial message to send during the next five weeks.
Will Murray let McGinn remain in Buffalo and be part of the vital lessons being learned by a budding team, or will the general manager ship out the pending unrestricted free agent for an asset who won’t feel the pride of taking the rebuild’s first steps?
McGinn’s agent, Thane Campbell, said by phone Wednesday he has not had any contract talks with Murray.
“I try not to think about that,” said McGinn, who played his first game against Colorado since being dealt to the Sabres. “I’m happy where I am. I’m happy with the logo I’m wearing right now. That’s all that matters.
“I want to win. We’re starting to do that here, which is good, and I want to be a part of that. As long as I’m having fun out there and just worrying about hockey, all the other stuff will take care of itself.”
The pending decision on McGinn comes at an important point in the organization’s development. It’s why alternate captain Josh Gorges readily weighed in on the desire to keep McGinn.
“As an organization we’re trying to build on something and build toward something great this year and next year and the years to come,” Gorges said in Denver. “When you can hold a group together, a core group of guys that first and foremost are good guys, guys that want to get better and want to grow and want to be part of something great, if you can keep those guys together, it makes it easier building and growing and making that transition to the next step.
“When guys are coming in and out and interchangeable, sometimes it’s a little more difficult to grow as a group. Obviously, as a guy and a teammate we love having him here. He’s a big part of it.”
McGinn has been a pleasant surprise during his first season with the Sabres. Overshadowed by Ryan O’Reilly in the deal with Colorado, McGinn entered Wednesday’s game fourth on the team in scoring with 10 goals and 21 points in 46 games. The 27-year-old has four power-play goals, two game-winners and is third on the team with 95 hits.
“When you look at the makeup of a team – any team, good teams – you need to have those guys that do the little things, stuff that sometimes goes unnoticed,” Gorges said. “Here’s a guy who’s a perfect example. Our power play scores a lot of goals because he’s right in front of the net. Those goals don’t go in if he’s not there. His play on the boards, winning battles so that his linemates get extra space and things like that, a lot of times those plays go unnoticed by the majority of the people. But from within the group we recognize how important he is to our team’s success.”
The Sabres had won four of five heading into the Colorado matchup, increasing the camaraderie that has been evident since training camp.
“We have a great group of guys,” McGinn said. “We’re learning on the fly. We’re learning how to win hockey games right now.
“We’re all trying to lead and we’re all trying to help each other out. We know we have a young team in here, so we have to have support of each other and be there and help each other out, and that’s how we’re going to grow and we’re going to grow faster. We have the skill in here. It’s just about doing it together, and we’re starting to do that.
“It’s good to see the wins come, and we feel good. Hopefully, we keep going.”
McGinn’s play will place him among the more intriguing forwards at next month’s trade deadline. The UFA group is top-heavy with Steven Stamkos and Eric Staal, but McGinn could easily fall into the next tier. Murray could certainly get something of value for him, then attempt to re-sign him in the summer if desired.
But the Sabres already are scheduled to make 11 picks at this year’s NHL Draft. Would Murray prefer another second- or third-rounder to extending McGinn’s contract and showing the players that key building blocks will be kept?
“He loves Buffalo,” said Campbell, McGinn’s agent. “He loves the city. He really likes the teammates. He really feels comfortable there. He feels the coaches have respect for his game, and he feels that it’s a good fit for him.”