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Live from free agency

Greetings from One News Plaza. Before getting here, I told a bunch of friends I planned to be very, very witty today. Now I can't think of anything to say. Nothing like jinxing yourself before breakfast, eh? (And speaking of "eh," happy Canada Day to those in The True North.)

Anyway, I suppose I could tell a joke, but my favorite one -- which involves a penguin, a bar stool and grapes -- takes way too long and needs a prop, so that obviously won't translate very well here. The only other one I know is kind of dumb, and I'll leave the dumb stuff to the general managers today.

And we already have the first signing of the day, and it's sure to be a sad one for the locals. The Rangers have signed Martin Biron to a two-year deal worth an average of $875,000 per season. So do the Sabres look to keep Patrick Lalime now? I'm leaning toward yes.

12:06 p.m.: Another former Sabre gets the second contract of the official free agency season. Boston re-signs Daniel Paille, according to TSN, for two years at $2.15 million.

12:07 p.m.: Oooh, I thought of a joke. The Sabres are going to sign Ilya Kovalchuk and Sergei Gonchar today. Ha!

12:12 p.m.: Some waiver news as TSN reports that old friend Andrew Peters has cleared waivers in New Jersey. The Devils can buy out the final year of his contract for $250,000, or they can pay him $500,000 to play in the minors. Of course, they can also pay him $500,000 to play in New Jersey, though unfortunately for him he didn't do too much of that last season. The Devils even scratched him for all four games against the Sabres.

12:19 p.m.: The Northeast Division just got the top defenseman on the market, and it wasn't the Sabres who signed him. Ottawa has agreed to a three-year deal with Gonchar worth $5.5 million per year, according to TSN. See, I was joking earlier -- the Senators, however, are not.

12:20 p.m.: So here is the list of available goaltenders, according to CapGeek.com. Again, I'd be surprised if the Sabres just picked someone off that list knowing that Lalime has Ryan Miller's respect.

12:23 p.m.: It seems the Eastern Conference is the only one awake so far, as the Flyers re-sign defenseman Braydon Coburn for two years at $6.4 million, according to TSN. Maybe the Western Conference teams think it's noon Pacific time for the start of the day ...

12:28 p.m.: Calgary apparently gets the wake-up call, as various reports have the Flames welcoming back Alex Tanguay, who had a rough, rough season in Tampa Bay, but had a successful two-year run in Calgary a few years back.

12:38 p.m.: Not the quickest start to the silly season so far, with the exception of Marty signing a few seconds after noon. Yeah, tell me again how that can happen without prior contact?

12:46 p.m.: Hold on to your hats, the Hurricanes are about to blow you away. They have re-signed Anton Babchuk to a one-year deal worth $1.4 million. OK, so maybe it won't blow you away -- unless you're Babchuk's mom.

12:50 p.m.: For the first time in my life -- as I look at Mike Harrington's computer and its constant updates from around the NHL -- I can see the value of Twitter. Still not going to get an account, but I see how it can be useful on days like this.

12:53 p.m.: Rumor has it there's a decent lunch to be had over HSBC Arena today.

12:55 p.m.: So the Leafs traded for Kris Versteeg on Wednesday, the Sens signed Gonchar and the Bruins re-upped with Paille. That leaves the Sabres and the Canadiens as the last Northeast teams to make a move this week. I'm actually going to go out on a limb -- no joking here -- and say the Sabres do something first today. (The Canadiens traded Jaroslav Halak recently, but I'm not counting that because then I'd have to count the Mike Grier signing.)

12:59 p.m.: Bryan Murray makes another move in Canada's capital, but this one is minor: The Sens re-sign Jesse Winchester for two years at $1.5 million, according to TSN.

1:01 p.m.: Big doings down in Tampa Bay, as the Lightning announces they have given Martin St. Louis a four-year contract extension. The Lady Byng winner had one year left.

1:09 p.m.: TSN reports that St. Louis gets $22.5 million over his four years.

1:14 p.m.: Pittsburgh chooses to replace Gonchar with former Phoenix defenseman Zbynek Michalek, a  27-year-old who had three goals and 14 assists last season. He gets $4 million per year for the next five years.

1:19 p.m.: Harrington tells me that a former member of the Islanders' PR staff reports the team gave Biron permission to negotiate before the start of free agency. That would explain the signing seconds out of the gate.

1:28 p.m.: According to TSN, the list of available backups just got smaller -- and I was wrong about the Sabres or Habs. Montreal signs netminder Alex Auld to a one-year, $1 million deal to back up Carey Price. I can't say Auld would've been an improvement over Lalime anyway. As my old boss Howard Smith used to say, six of one, half dozen of the other.

1:33 p.m.: Toronto gets a little grittier as the Leafs sign forward Colby Armstrong to a three-year contract, according to TSN. Sidney Crosby's former running mate brings a little in all areas of the game and is tough to play against -- which is right up Brian Burke's alley. The Northeast keeps getting tougher by the hour for the Sabres.

1:36 p.m.: Another goalie is off the board, as the Sharks apparently are handing their crease over to Antero Niittymaki, according to TSN. The former Lightning goalie went 21-18-5 with a 2.87 goals-against average and .909 save percentage. Can't say he's an improvement over Evgeni Nabokov, who is looking for a team, although Niittymaki is cheaper at two years for $2 million per year.

1:38 p.m.: Armstrong's deal is worth $3 million a year.

1:44 p.m.: Co-worker Fletcher Doyle, doing a fine job running our tracker on the site, notes that three guys named Alex have signed today (Steen, Tanguay and Auld). Maybe Alex Mogilny is going to make a comeback in Buffalo. He'd immediately replace Drew Stafford on the top line with Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek.

1:48 p.m.: Or is the top line Tim Connolly, Jason Pominville and Jochen Hecht? Kind of sad when you're not sure what the top line of a team is, eh? It should be a no-brainer, and seems to be on most other teams.

1:52 p.m.: The first Manny is off the board as Vancouver signs Malhotra to a three-year, $7.5 million deal, according to TSN. Not sure if there's a second Manny to be had.

1:57 p.m.: This seems to be a quieter year leaguewide so far than the past few. We need a Jeff Finger-type deal or a Sabres signing to liven things up. Or maybe Kovalchuk will sign with someone. No way he gets more than the $102 million that Atlanta offered him.

2 p.m.: Phoenix keeps one of the top remaining D-men, re-signing Derek Morris to a four-year, $11 million deal. His pounding of Justin Abdelkader during the playoffs was one of the more memorable moments of the postseason for me.

2:03 p.m.: Here's the link to that fight. And for another joke, check out the fact that 6.2 percent of the voters said it was a draw or Abdelkader won! Ha!

2:17 p.m.: Flyers get a brawler by signing Jody Shelley for three years at $3.3 million. Broad Street bully.

2:18 p.m.: One of my draft drinking cohorts (purely sodas, of course), Jeremy Rutherford of St. Louis Post-Dispatch, is reporting that the Sabres are among seven teams that have contacted Blues defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo. The D-man had 19 power-play assists two seasons ago, according to Harrington's quick research.

2:25 p.m.: Dan Ellis, acquired by Montreal recently, shuns Quebec and signs a two-year deal with Tampa Bay to share the crease with Mike Smith. Acquiring players' rights hasn't worked out so well so far.

2:30 p.m.: The Pittsburgh blue line continues to get better, as ESPN reports that the Pens have signed Paul Martin. That's a huge day for the Penguins, though I'm not sure how they have this much cash with their two $8.7 million men in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin along with Brooks Orpik, Marc-Andre Fleury and Michalek.

2:33 p.m.: Here's the list of defensemen still available, stacked in order of assists. Corvo's minus-10 looks scary.

2:36 p.m.: The Rangers, according to TSN, are quick to combat the Flyers-Shelley signing -- literally. They reportedly have acquired monster basher Derek Boogaard from Minnesota. Can't wait to see their first battle.

2:42 p.m.; Breaking news form the Sabres' Twitter site!!!! The ninth annual Street Hockeyfest will include an all-girls division!!!

2:45 p.m.: Martin gets the magic number that would have kept Daniel Briere or Brian Campbell -- five years at $25 million.

2:52 p.m.: TSN the TV channel reports teams have spent $114 million so far today.

2:55 p.m.: In honor of the three-year anniversary of Chris Drury leaving town, here's a link to the Sabres-Senators brawl.

2:59 p.m.: And my favorite Sabre to chat with is a Sabre no longer. Toni Lydman has signed with Anaheim for three years and $9 million. It's been fun, Toni. Enjoy the West Coast.

3:09 p.m.: Here's a little more on Lydman.

3:21 p.m.: Just got off the phone with Lydman, who's in Finland (had to rack up The News' phone bill!). He said he wanted to stay, but the Sabres offered only a two-year deal. Once the Ducks came up with three, he had to take it. It's a guaranteed $3 million. That's a lot of reasons to head west.

3:26 p.m.: While I was chatting with Toni, the Coyotes signed Ray Whitney a two-year, $6 million deal.

3:42 p.m.: Based on the belief that Henrik Tallinder will follow Lydman out the door, here's some projected defense pairings for next season: Andrej Sekera-Tyler Myers; Chris Butler-Craig Rivet; Mike Weber-Steve Montador, with Marc-Andre Gragnani as the seventh defenesman. Probably not enough, unless Sekera, Weber and Butler mature a lot over the summer.

3:51 p.m.: Ryan Miller had better rest up this summer if that's the group, that's for sure.

3:53 p.m.: Rather quiet day so far, unless you're a big fan of defensemen. I might go take a nap. Well, considering I didn't really sleep last night (still rocking on West Coast time after the awards and draft last week), I guess it would be more than a nap and would actually be bedtime.

3:55 p.m.: Get those defense pairings ready, as Tallinder is indeed gone. Tallinder has signed a four-year, $13.5 million deal with the New Jersey Devils.

4:02 p.m.: Here's a little bit more on Tallinder.

4:10 p.m.: In yet another chance to run up The News' phone bill, I just got off the phone with Tallinder's parents in Sweden. Nice folks, though his mom (or the woman who answered the call) had no idea what the heck I was saying. She handed the phone to Mr. Tallinder, and his English was just fine and dandy. He's supposed to get ahold of Hank for me, but I'm not sure he'd want to ring up his phone bill. Then again, he just got a lot of cash and surely can afford it.

4:12 p.m.: The biggest remaining fish in the defense pond just got snagged. Vancouver has signed Dan Hamhuis, according to TSN. He gets $4.5 million per year.

4:20 p.m.: The Devils get their due -- and, according to various reports -- Anton Volchenkov. The former Senators stalwart is joining Tallinder to help put up a wall in front of Martin Brodeur. Fletcher Doyle chimes in that this is the second Anton to sign today, joining Babchuk.

4;22 p.m.: The Hamhuis and Volchenkov deals are reportedly six years each. Still waiting on Volchenkov's dollar amount, but I bet it's more than I'll ever make. Actually, no more betting. Did more than enough in Vegas.

4:23 p.m.: Oh, I almost forgot my usual disclaimer: Gambling is bad. Your money is better spent on concerts, women and whiskey.

4:28 p.m: For folks still wondering about the Sabres' backup situation, cross Chris Mason off your list. He has signed with Atlanta for two years and $3.7 million. That means Johan Hedberg is in need of a job.

4:29 p.m.: The Flames are bringing back Olli Jokinen for two years at $6 million.

4:34 p.m.: The NHL Network just had a commercial-type thing about Bill Barilko, so for those of us who need a break from hockey for a few minutes, here's a link to a live version of The Tragically Hip's "Fifty Mission Cap," which is about Barilko.

4:36 p.m.: Atlanta continues to turn into Chicago South, as the Thrashers are on the verge of trading for the Blackhawks' Andrew Ladd, according to TSN. Volchenkov, by the way, gets $4.25 million per season.

4:40 p.m.: By my unofficial count, I think that's the fifth appearance by The Hip on this blog through the past three years. That's most of any group by at least four. Not that you care, unless you like The Hip.

4:42 p.m.: Some of the most excitement of the day here at One News Plaza as Associated Press writer John Wawrow, whose office is right next to the Sports Department, is trying to find a suitable ringer for his new phone. Most -- if not all -- are pretty annoying, though it's better than silence (but only by a smidge).

5:08 p.m.: We get real breaking news from the Sabres' Twitter site -- Buffalo has signed defenseman Jordan Leopold to a three-year deal. More to come.

5:14 p.m.: Here's a bit more on Leopold, with more to come as I type each paragraph and post it.

5:29 p.m.: Hedberg is no longer available, as the Devils have signed him to back up Martin Brodeur. Speaking of the Devils, I just got off the phone with Tallinder. He seems genuinely sad to be leaving Buffalo after spending eight seasons in town, but he said the Sabres just didn't come close in either dollars or length. He believes his agent offered the Sabres a chance to match the deal, but they declined (if the offer was indeed given).

5:47 p.m.: Just got off the phone with Leopold's agent, Ben Hankinson. He said mutual attraction made this an easy deal. The quotes can be found here.

5:49 p.m.: The Ducks keep Saku Koivu for two years at $5 million. As Harrington notes, Koivu would have had the chance to play with his best friend, Craig Rivet, on a team that could use a reliable center.

5:56 p.m.: Just got off the phone with Leopold. He said he called fellow Minnesota product Thomas Vanek to get the lowdown on the area, and he liked what he heard. Leopold has three kids -- 6- and 4-year-old daughters and a 1-year-old son -- and he wanted a town the family would like. Vanek helped convince him this was it.

6:08 p.m.: Leopold is a left-handed shot, which could put him alongside the right-shooting Tyler Myers.

6:19 p.m.: Blackhawks lose another player as Adam Burish heads to Dallas for two years at $2.3 million. The Cup has no choice but to travel the globe this offseason.

6:23 p.m.: Just posted quotes from my conversation with Leopold. They can be found here.

6:36 p.m.: Just posted quotes to the Tallinder blog entry, which means I'm caught up on transcribing quotes for the time being. Whoo hoo!

6:38 p.m.: Minnesota signs center Matt Cullen to a three-year contract worth $3.5 million per season.

6:40 p.m.: Just got a call from the Sabres, and they said Darcy Regier will be available to chat tonight -- but not yet because he's still working the phones.

6:42 p.m.: The pickings are getting slim among backup goaltenders, as the Stars announce a deal with Andrew Raycroft to back up Kari Lehtonen. At the moment, it appears to be Lalime or Jhonas Enroth playing behind Miller. 

6:50 p.m.: Well, things have quieted down considerably, so it seems like a decent time to wrap this particular blog up. Stay with the Sabres Edge, though, as I'll update the site with any breaking news and when Regier chats. As always, thanks for joining us. Later.

---John Vogl

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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 | jvogl@buffnews.com

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 | mharrington@buffnews.com


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 | amoritz@buffnews.com

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