BUFFALO — Sabres general manager Tim Murray couldn't get through explaining how popular Buffalo is as a free-agent destination without his cellphone ringing on Tuesday.
Stopping in midsentence after making a flurry of moves in opening the NHL's signing period, Murray checked his phone, smiled and said: "I should take that call." He didn't. But the timing was perfect in emphasizing Murray's point.
Whatever laughingstock reputation that Sabres established in being the league's worst team last season certainly didn't reflect in how popular they were among established free agents.
"It just shows you that there are quality players that want to come here," Murray said. "I've thought that all along, but you're never sure until the clock hits 12. And there were more (interested) than what we got done."
Overseeing his first free-agency frenzy since taking over in January, Murray added depth and experience to a young, patchwork roster that contributed to one of the Sabres' worst seasons in franchise history.
Buffalo (21-51-10) set a franchise record for losses and established a post-NHL-expansion-era low by scoring just 150 goals.
In a matter of four hours, Murray changed the team's outlook by committing a combined $46.375 million in salaries to fill various leadership and offensive needs by signing four free agents, including former Montreal Canadiens captain Brian Gionta. He also acquired veteran defenseman Josh Gorges, who adjusted his no-trade clause to add Buffalo, in a deal with Montreal.
And he also re-signed forward Marcus Foligno, a restricted free agent, to a two-year $3.75 million contract.
"This changes the mindset is what it changes," Murray said. "I still don't consider us a contending team by any means. But now the players may think differently. And that's good."