Ales Kotalik and Shaone Morrisonn never really had a chance. Their high-dollar salaries combined with the Buffalo Sabres’ over-the-limit payroll made them easy targets for the chopping block. The cleaver cut swiftly Saturday.
The Sabres placed Kotalik and Morrisonn on waivers, moves that weren’t shocking given Buffalo’s financial situation. The Sabres entered training camp $3.6 million over the NHL’s salary cap of $64.3 million. Kotalik makes $3 million and Morrisonn has a cap hit of $2.075. Their departures will bring the Sabres back into compliance and put them $1.5 million under the cap.
The other 29 teams have until noon Monday to claim the players. If no one does, the Sabres can assign them to Rochester or Europe.
"I told the players that I would talk to them on Monday and we’d see where we were after the noon deadline," General Manager Darcy Regier said tonight before the Sabres hosted Toronto. "Both were very professional and understanding in that they realized what this means. The only thing that I can try to do to help them is say to them, 'We’ll work and try to help you in any way to try to get back in the National Hockey League, whether it’s with us, which would obviously involve biding their time, or another team.'"
The Sabres said repeatedly that Kotalik would be given a chance to make the roster. The winger didn’t play in the team’s first four exhibitions, however, and he skated with minor-leaguers during practices. Morrisonn didn’t play, either.
"Because of the rules, it was our intention to try and get them into games," Regier said. "The difficulty with being over the cap is that had either of these players played a game and been injured – and when I’m talking about injured, not available for the opening day roster – in order for us to get under the cap we would’ve had to either waive or trade other players on our roster. It made it very difficult.
"We spent a lot of time talking about, 'Should we get them in a game? Should we have a look?' because obviously they’re both NHL players. In Al’s case, he’s played for us, he’s played well for us, but when we went through it this was the decision we decided to go with."
Kotalik split last season between Calgary and the Flames’ American Hockey League affiliate. Morrisonn played 62 games with the Sabres but was on the bench by the time the season ended.
7:15 p.m: And the puck has dropped. More Buffalo fans than Leaf fans, which is rare when these teams play in First Niagara Center.
7:21 p.m.: Usually when teams play two nights in a row, the dislike factor goes up. That's certainly the case. The Paul Gaustad-Nathan Gerbe-Patrick Kaleta line had a scrum in front of the net, and Gaustad just went after Colby Armstrong with 15:13 to go when Armstrong boarded the center.
7:24 p.m.: Drew Stafford scores on the power play with 13:41 to go to give Buffalo a 1-0 lead.
7:32 p.m.: A lot of energy in the building for a preseason game. And if anyone hasn't been in the building yet, just know that it's a lot colder in here now that the team has become intent on providing the best ice available. So when the season starts, bring a sweater. Or drink an extra soda or two to get warm. I wish we had that second option in the press box.
7:37 p.m.: The Leafs' Mikhail Grabovski ties the game with 6:33 by kicking in a rebound. Lindy Ruff yells at the refs, who don't review the goal. It's 1-1. The Leaf fans who are here are loud.
7:49 p.m.: The teams skate to the dressing room in a 1-1 tie. The Sabres have a 9-7 edge in shots. The goaltenders are Jhonas Enroth for Buffalo and Jonas Gustavsson for Toronto.
8:08 p.m.: Go, Leafs, go! rings out as the second period gets under way.
8:12 p.m.: Toronto goes on the power play as Cody McCormick gets called for tripping with 16:24 left.
8:17 p.m.: Good shift by the Tyler Ennis-Ville Leino-Drew Stafford line, which pretty much seals the deal that you'll be reading a lot about them in the Sunday paper. It's still 1-1 with 13:11 to go.
8:27 p.m.: The Sabres are back on the power play as Nazem Kadri goes for hooking with 8:33 left.
8:29 p.m.: The Sabres' power play strikes again, as Christian Ehrhoff gets a point for the third straight game. He blistered a one-timer past Gustavsson after a pass along the blue line from Tyler Myers with 7:05 to go.
8:42 p.m.: The Sabres head to the dressing room with command of the game and a 2-1 lead. The Sabres took 13 of the 19 shots in the second period and have a 22-13 edge.
It's 9 o'clock on a Saturday: ... and the regular crowd shuffles in for the drop of the puck.
9:03 p.m.: The Sabres are back on the power play after Matt Lashoff goes for slashing with 17:40 left. I think it got colder in here.
9:05 p.m.: The Sabres score their third power-play goal of the night, a pretty tic-tac-toe play with 16:47 left. Thomas Vanek passes from the right point to Brad Boyes in the left corner, and Boyes quickly find Luke Adam in the right circle for a one-timer.
9:13 p.m.: The fans finish the wave with a rousing ovation for Enroth, who flipped and flopped to keep the Leafs off the board with 12 minutes to go.
9:17 p.m.: The fans drown out a Leafs chant with "Let's go, Buffalo!" It's louder in here tonight than it was during the playoffs. People are excited for this season, eh?
9:19 p.m.: Nikolai Kulimen answers for the Leafs, chipping a puck past Enroth with 7:39 to go to pull Toronto within 3-2.
9:24 p.m.: Tyler Myers heads off for delay of game with 6:39 left.
9:34 p.m.: The Sabres improve to 4-0 in the preseason with a 3-2 victory. Good night.