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Drury waves goodbye with praise

Former Sabres co-captain Chris Drury (wow, that word "former" sure seems wrong, huh?) made it clear in a phone call this morning that Buffalo was his first choice. He wanted to be a Sabre, and he listed the many reasons why as part of a farewell message to the fans and organization.

Though Drury has been given a great opportunity with his hometown team, the New York Rangers, he's also leaving a place that truly became dear to him. He'll miss it.

"It's probably hard for people to believe now," Drury said, "but my family and I, we genuinely liked it there. It was home. No matter what, it will always hold a special place in my heart. I always refer to my daughter being born there, and there's nothing more special than that, having your kids born. I'll always remember those two days with lots of smiles.

"Going forward, I'll never have a bad thought or thing to say about anyone in that organization. They just treated me great, from the minute I got to traded from Calgary right on through yesterday.

"Some guys might have been extremely mad that a deal didn't get done, but you've got to understand it's a business, and for whatever reason it didn't get done. I still will have nothing but high praise if anyone asks me about Lindy, Jeep, Scott Arniel, McCutcheon, Corsi and Darcy and right on through with the equipment staff, the training staff. There's some great people there.

"As far as the fans, not only did the fans respond unbelievably, which makes them great fans, but I think they're just great people, too. It's a great place to live. They're passionate, but they can give you your space. It's nice thing to have."

Drury was a nice thing for this town and its team to have. Too bad it couldn't have been for longer.

---John Vogl

A word on loyalty

Here's something that's easy to understand once you've been around hockey a year or two:

Players are fiercely loyal to the crest on their jerseys during the season. Everything they do, everything they say, is all about the team, the team, the team. They're geared to think about little more than winning and supporting the boys in the room. That's been especially true in Buffalo, where the front office has done a fine job of accumulating character guys.

But once that final horn has sounded, when the time has arrived to clean out the lockers, players turn into individuals again. After months of putting the team first, they start to think about themselves. They worry about their next contract. They worry about financial security. They worry about stability. Their loyalty is to themselves.

That's where the Sabres front office blew it -- again. For the second straight season they took their biggest bargaining chip -- in-season loyalty -- and tossed it into the Buffalo River by failing to negotiate contract extensions during the season. That was their only leverage. They coughed it up.

Imagine Chris Drury or Daniel Briere, in the full throes of the fervor that engulfed them as they stormed to the Presidents' Trophy, not giving the Sabres every courtesy in contract talks. The Sabres were allowed to negotiate with Drury at any time, Briere after Jan. 1 (the rule for players on one-year contracts).

Briere would have accepted last week's too-little, too-late five-year, $25 million offer had been tendered back then. Drury didn't sign with the Rangers for significantly more than the Sabres' five-year, $30 million offer.

Briere gave them three golden opportunities to lock him up for less. He practically begged them to undercut his value when the lockout ended, asking for a multiyear deal worth a little more than $3 million a year.

Then there are Jay McKee and Mike Grier, players who couldn't have been more loyal to the team yet had no choice but to laugh at the Sabres on their way out the door last summer.

---Tim Graham

5 years, $35.25 million

That's what Chris Drury accepted to join the New York Rangers a few minutes ago. The deal isn't outrageously more than what the Sabres had offered their former co-captain and two-way star to stick around. They initially proposed five years and $30 million.

Do you think Drury would have worked with the Sabres' numbers had they not lowballed Daniel Briere?

The announcement Drury was in the fold came moments after the Rangers had landed Scott Gomez, indicative of Drury's enthusiasm for what he could accomplish in Manhattan as opposed to HSBC Arena.

---Tim Graham

Briere's message to Sabres fans

Daniel Briere wanted me to pass along a message to Sabres fans. A few hours after the former Sabres co-captain reached an eight-year deal with the Flyers, he sounded genuinely disappointed a deal couldn't be reached to remain in blue and gold.

Briere on locker cleanout day spoke about returning to the Sabres for less money than he would make elsewhere, but when the Sabres failed to extend their initial offer until six weeks later (five years at the same annual salary he made last season), the All Star MVP knew they weren't really interested.

"Tell the fans that I was sincere when I said I wanted to stay in Buffalo," Briere said. "That was my priority when the season was over, but at the same time, with any job or anything you do in life, with any employer, you want to feel wanted.

"What I feel bad about is losing my teammates, losing my coaching staff and I feel bad being on another team now after spending some great years playing for those fans in Buffalo."

Briere joined the Sabres in March 2003 from the Coyotes in exchange for Chris Gratton, a deal that will go down as one of the greatest in club history. Briere last season topped the Sabres in scoring with 95 points and led the NHL in even-strength scoring with 68 points in helping them win the Presidents' Trophy.

"I apologize to the fans," Briere said. "It's obviously a tough decision, and I'll always remember and cherish my time in Buffalo. All I can say is thank you to the fans.

"I'm really sad to be leaving the Buffalo Sabres organization and to leave the city, but it will always be a big part of my heart."

---Tim Graham

8 years, $52 million

That's what Daniel Briere was offered by the Flyers. It'll be 2015 before he wipes the smile off his face.

Kind of makes the numbers with which the Sabres approached their co-captain a few days ago even more laughable.

The Sabres, however, would be the ones laughing if they hadn't been so stubborn and extended their five-year, $25 million offer in January. Because Briere would have taken it.

---Tim Graham

Philly now Briere's team

Daniel Briere could have gone to the Canadiens, but in the end he opted for the team that will be all his. Briere became the new face of the Flyers about 10 minutes ago, joining his old Sabres teammate Martin Biron. The Flyers are an emerging team and are positioning themselves to make a dramatic turnaround with Briere as their centerpiece.

Briere would not have had the same impact in Montreal. Not only would he have been inundated with questions from the Quebecois media on an daily basis, but he also would have been an ancillary component to revered captain Saku Koivu and, to a lesser extent, players such as Alexei Kovalev and Andrei Markov.

---Tim Graham

Briere to the Flyers

Daniel Briere just sent me a text message to inform me has agreed to join the Flyers. Check back momentarily for the report.

---Tim Graham

Don't expect much today from Sabres

There's a good chance Saturday's three-year agreement with fourth-line forward Adam Mair might be the only move the Sabres make this weekend.

The Sabres are known for being patient bunch, and sources close to the team indicate there are no plans to do anything when the free agency period opens in 15 minutes. Expect GM Darcy Regier to sit back and survey the landscape once a few of the big dominoes fall to determine the Sabres course of action.

---Tim Graham

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John Vogl

John Vogl

John Vogl has been covering the Sabres since 2002-03, an era that has included playoff runs, last-place finishes and three ownership changes. The award-winning writer is the Buffalo chapter chairman for the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

@BuffNewsVogl |

About Sabres Edge

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has been covering the Buffalo Sabres since 2007. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and can vouch that exposed flesh freezes instantly when walking in downtown Winnipeg in January.

@BNHarrington |

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz |