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Stupid money season begins as Gaustad cashes in with Predators -- four years, $13 million

Sunday at noon, of course, is the opening of the NHL's stupid season -- otherwise known as unrestricted free agency. We'll have full coverage of UFA Day here on ye olde blog but teams are, of course, free to try to keep their own until everyone can start talking.

The Nashville Predators did just that Saturday night by re-signing old friend Paul Gaustad, whom the Sabres cashed in at the trade deadline for a first-round draft pick that they eventually turned into Zemgus Girgensons last week in Pittsburgh.

So what did Gaustad, he of one career playoff goal in 48 playoff games and no response to Milan Lucic, get from the team he finished the season with?

How about a big raise? How about $13 million dollars over four years -- or $3.25M per? Good lord. 

Now, I get the whole deal here. Gaustad wins faceoffs and kills penalties. The free agent market is thin, especially at center. The Preds probably want to save face about giving up that No. 1 pick and need to spend money to get to the floor, especially if they don't keep Ryan Suter. And other teams were probably going to offer at least as much, if not more.

Still. It's Paul Gaustad. Get ready for plenty more head-shaking deals Sunday, both for the journeymen out there and the big names like Zach Parise, Suter and maybe even Marty Brodeur. Good luck to owners pleading poverty in the CBA talks.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Sabres announce Jeanneret will call all 82 games

Rick Jeanneret has decided vacations are for the summertime.

The Sabres' play-by-play announcer will call all 82 games this season after taking several breaks the past few seasons.


“Having RJ return to call a full schedule of games next season is great news for our organization and even better news for our fans,” team President Ted Black said today. “We are so lucky to have a Hall-of-Fame talent around on a full-time basis again and, after his new contract extension, for years to come on our broadcasts."

Jeanneret will be joined by color analyst Rob Ray on the broadcasts.

--John Vogl

Analysis of players' impacts following signings, trades

This is the week expectations begin to soar around the NHL. The free agent market opens Sunday, and teams will add the superstars and role players they believe will vault them toward the Stanley Cup.

It turns out there is significantly more disappointment than joy when players, teams and fans look back to the previous free agent frenzy.

In an effort to determine players’ immediate impact on a new team, The News analyzed the offensive output of all 251 skaters who have signed a multiyear contract with a new team since 2006-07. In addition, we studied the per-game breakdown of all 303 moves within three weeks of the trade deadline since 2005-06.

Read the full story here and check out a breakdown of the research below:

Signings analysis by team

Signings analysis by player

Trade analysis by team

Trades analysis by player

--John Vogl

That's a wrap: Darcy, Devine speak on Sabres draft

PITTSBURGH -- The NHL draft was completed Saturday as the Sabres made six more picks, headed by second-rounder and University of Wisconsin defenseman Jake McCabe. 

Scouting Director Kevin Devine summed up what the team was looking for when he said, "We kind of had a theme here the last couple of months: Bigger, faster, tougher."

The Sabres drafted seven skaters plus Swedish goaltender Linus Ullmark. Average size of the seven skaters: 6-1 1/2 and 201 pounds. You 5-7 guys need not apply.

Said Devine: "With some of the players we have in the organization now, the [Tyler] Ennises, [Derek] Roys, [Nathan] Gerbes, we're kind of staying away from those guys until the outlook of our team changes a little bit."

"The focus was on depth down the middle and size with it," said GM Darcy Regier. 

You can go to this link to see the Sabres' cache of picks here the last two days. 

And you can click below for the postdraft wrapups from Regier and Devine on the draft floor at Consol Energy Center.


Darcy Regier


Kevin Devine

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Lightning taps Amherst's Blujus in round two

146933562PITTSBURGH -- Amherst native Dylan Blujus honed his skills with the Buffalo Regals before heading to Brampton of the OHL and earning a top-75 rating among North American skaters. Where would that land him?

Second round to Tampa Bay, No. 40 overall. The 6-foot-3, 193-pound defenseman said he was hoping for round two and he got his wish. That's Blujus in the photo with Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman.

"I had a good talk with Tampa Bay so that was one of the teams on my radar," Blujus said. "I was very happy coming in. It's great to be the first one off the board in Western New York so I'm defintely happy about that."

Blujus has plenty of Western New York in his background. He played for the Wheatfield Blades under former Amherst star and Washington Capitals defenseman Peter Scamurra. He played for the Buffalo Regals. His sister, Brittany, is a former Buffalo Jill who is married to Dan Gronkowski so Blujus is part of that family.

"It's exciting to be a part of that family with their craziness," he said. "I get a little taste of the NFL right there and now I can give them a little taste of the NHL."

Blujus lists Tyler Myers as his favorite player and was part of the Sabres' recent combine. He said he thought it was possible he'd be picked by Buffalo but was happy with Tampa because he has family in Florida and because someday he could play in Syracuse, the Lightning's new AHL affiliate.

"They have a great guy in [general manager] Steve Yzerman right there," he said. "With a world-class guy like that anything can happen. They definitely have a great team with Steven Stamkos and everyone around him."

Hear audio of Blujus' chat with reporters below:


Dylan Blujus

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Getty Images photo: Blujus with Yzerman on the draft floor.

McCabe, Sabres' second-round pick, hopes to grow into top defenseman

McCabePITTSBURGH -- Jake McCabe learned how to act like a pro when Ron Rolston, now the Amerks' coach, guided him at the U.S. national development program. He hopes the lessons he's learning now at the University of Wisconsin teach him how to be a No. 1 defenseman in the NHL.

The Sabres selected McCabe in the second round of the NHL draft with the 44th overall pick, and they got a 6-foot, 195-pounder who is polished on and off the ice.

"I’m a two-way defenseman," McCabe said in Consol Energy Center. "I’m used in all situations. I’m comfortable in all situations. I think I’m a leader. I’m out there blocking shots for my teammates, and that’s what I enjoy doing. I think I’m a competitor. I’m at my best when I’m going out there and making a good first hit, good first shift, and I just want to be reliable in all situations: penalty kill, power play. I want to be able to comfortable eventually taking on a team’s top line."

For more from McCabe, click the audio file below.

---John Vogl

Getty Images photo: McCabe with Sabres GM Darcy Regier and owner Terry Pegula.

Live from Pittsburgh -- NHL Draft day 2

PITTSBURGH -- We're back at Consol Energy Center for Rounds 2-7 of the NHL draft. Be sure to join our live blog at 10 a.m. and we'll open it up for questions at certain times during the day, likely after we complete interviews with the Sabres' second-round pick.

We will also have tidbits and links on Twitter at @BNHarrington and @Buffnewsvogl.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Audio: Regier, Devine evaluate Sabres' opening night at draft

PITTSBURGH -- The Sabres got two talented centers during the first round of the NHL, selecting Mikhail Grigorenko and Zamgus Girgensons.

"It’s a good night," General Manager Darcy Regier said in Consol Energy Center. "The center position is a very important position, not just with us but around the league. To acquire two centers, two different type centers, is good."

To hear the rest of Regier's comments, plus those of director of amateur scouting Kevin Devine, click the audio files below.

---John Vogl

Darcy Regier

Kevin Devine

Sabres feel Girgensons will be a hit in Buffalo

PITTSBURGH – If you think “Zamgus Girgensons” is tough to say or spell, just wait until you see the guy with that name on his birth certificate.

Girgensons, the Sabres’ second first-round pick in the NHL draft Friday night, is a 6-foot-2 mountain of fury in a flat-top buzzcut. The center would rather go through defenders than around them, but he has the ability to do both. Girgensons had 25 goals and 54 points in 49 games as captain of Dubuque of the United States Hockey League.

He also showed never-quit competitiveness, a trait occasionally lacking in Buffalo, so the Sabres sent their 21st and 42nd picks to Calgary for the right to select Girgensons with the 14th selection.

“The fans of Buffalo will love this guy,” Kevin Devine, the Sabres’ director of amateur scouting, said in Consol Energy Center. “He just will not quit. We talked to his coach, and his coach said he’s got the leadership qualities of Jonathan Toews, Mark Messier.”

Girgensons became the first Latvian-born player drafted in the opening round. His showing at the world junior tournament for his outmanned country earned the Sabres’ respect.

“He really didn’t come onto my radar until the world junior,” Devine said. “I really saw him and said, “This guy can play.’ I think they got beat, 14-0, by the Russians, and we were watching film on it and he was blocking shots with four minutes left in the game. I was shaking my head.”

Girgensons attended the Sabres’ scouting combine and talked with the team a few times, so when he heard the trade announced he figured it might mean his name was up next.

“I’m happy about it,” said the 18-year-old. “I’ve always been kind of a leader, but I’ve been more of a leader by example. I work hard on and off the ice, and that’s the way I lead.”

Girgensons, ranked as the 18th North American skater by NHL Central Scouting, feels he is physical ready to leap to the NHL. He has already committed to the University of Vermont, so a trip to the NCAAs is more likely for the immediate future.

“He plays right on the edge, plays an aggressive, physical game,” said Jack Barzee of NHL Central Scouting. “He's played with injuries and has a lot of internal toughness. He's got a great set of hands and is a team guy. I think the higher level he goes, the more he stands out, the more he puts people on the edge of their seats because he can score and finish.”

Girgensons sports a large championship ring on his right hand, earned when Dubuque won the Clark Cup in 2010-11. He’ll have to take it off when he fights for a spot on the Sabres and the good graces of their fans.

“I’m a skilled power forward, that’s for sure,” Girgensons said. “I like to hit. I like to score. That’s my game.”

---John Vogl

Zamgus Girgensons

Go to the video on the two newest Sabres

Here are some videos of Sabres draft picks Mikhail Grigorenko and Zemgus Girgensons.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

 

Sabres fill their biggest need, add two centers in NHL draft; at least one is NHL ready

PITTSBURGH – In a matter of minutes, the Buffalo Sabres added size, talent and physical play where they needed it most. Best of all for the organization, the two players they added might contribute immediately.

The Sabres watched with anxious eyes as Mikhail Grigorenko slid down the draft board Friday night, with the talented center landing on their lap with the 12th overall selection. While the star from Russia met the media in Consol Energy Center, the Sabres saw another player they liked. They decided to make a deal with Calgary and shipped the 21st overall pick and the 42nd pick for the 14th selection, which they used to pick center Zamgus Girgensons.

It can easily be considered a winning night for the Sabres. They needed to improve in the middle, and they did.

The addition of Grigorenko is the highlight of the Sabres’ night. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder is ready to jump to the NHL at age 18. He dominated for Quebec of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, recording 40 goals and 85 points in 59 games. NHL Central Scouting had him ranked as the third-best player in the draft.

Questions persisted about whether Grigorenko would stay in North America, however, with many believing he will bolt for the money of Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League. The Sabres decided, at 12th overall, it was well worth the risk.

Grigorenko was glad.

“I liked this team,” he said. “They talked to me a lot, and I really liked this organization. I talked with them during the few seasons a few times, at the combines and here before the draft [Thursday].

“Buffalo Sabres is my team and I can't wait to go on the ice to wear this jersey and be a part of this.”

With four picks in the top 44, the Sabres had the assets need to make moves. They did it for Girgensons.

The 6-foot-2, 198-pound center from Dubuque of the United States Hockey League became the first Latvian-born player taken in the first round of the NHL draft. He had 24 goals and 55 points in Dubuque, and the hard-hitting captain made noise away from the score sheet with his physical play.

“People have said next year I can play in the NHL. People have said it will take me five years,” Girgensons said. “We’re going to see what happens next year, and we’ll go from there. I feel like I can play next year. I’m physically ready.”

With the likelihood that at least one of the prospects will be ready to join the Sabres, it’s more likely the team will try to move center Derek Roy.

One established center did move Friday night, and the fans in the Steel City rose out of their chairs when Commissioner Gary Bettman announced the deal.

The host Penguins dealt center Jordan Staal to Carolina for center Brandon Sutter, defense prospect Brian Dumoulin of Boston College and the No. 8 overall selection. Staal, who has one year left on his contract, reportedly turned down a 10-year extension from the Penguins on Thursday.

“On behalf of ownership, we’d like to thank Jordan Staal for six great years here,” Pittsburgh General Manager Ray Shero told the crowd, which responded with loud cheers.

The ovation turned to some boos moments later when the Pens used their newly acquired pick on Derrick Pouliot. The defenseman from Portland of the Western Hockey League was ranked just 12th by NHL Central Scouting, lower than available players such as centers Mikhail Grigorenko (No. 3) and Radek Faksa (No. 7), and defensemen Cody Ceci (No. 6) and Olli Maatta (No. 8).

The building was full of cheers, however, when Pouliot reached the stage and donned the Penguins’ jersey.

“Anything can happen in this draft,” Pouliot said. “We saw that.”

The Hurricanes were thrilled to unite Staal with his All-Star brother, Eric, and feel the combination will be together for a long time.

“I hope so,” Carolina General Manager Jim Rutherford said. “For many years the family said that the brothers wanted to play together, so now that they’re together I don’t know why he’d go someplace else. I told Eric at the end of the season that we were going to try to improve our team. I said we were going to look at some good players around the league.

“I believe this improves our team. You name me two or three other players, center-ice men that are like Jordan Staal. You just can’t find them.”

Jordan Staal was unavailable for comment – because he was getting married in Canada.

“I left a message right after it was announced, and I said I didn’t expect him to call me back for a few days,” Rutherford said with a laugh.

For the third straight year, the draft started the same way. The brass of the Edmonton Oilers walked on stage and selected a forward first overall.

The Oilers added winger Nail Yakupov to a young core that includes Taylor Hall, the first selection in 2010, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the top pick last June. Edmonton has more pressing needs on defense than at forward, but Yakupov – the top-rated player by NHL Central Scouting in both the midterm and final rankings – was deemed too impressive to pass up.

“I’m glad to start my next life,” said Yakupov, who feels he’s ready to be an NHL player at age 18. “Yeah, why not? I have lots of time to work in the summer, work with Edmonton and try and make the team. I think I’m ready to play in the NHL.”

Because of the Oilers’ young talent up front, it was debated whether they would select a defenseman or trade down. Instead, they added firepower. Yakupov recorded 31 goals and 69 points in just 42 games for Sarnia of the Ontario Hockey League. The Oilers were 19th in scoring at 2.52 goals per game last season, a number that should rise with the new right winger.

“They’re young, but they played good,” said Yakupov, the first Russian taken with the top pick since Washington’s Alex Ovechkin in 2004. “It’s going to be a great team, plus me maybe.”

The Columbus Blue Jackets selected defenseman Ryan Murray with the second overall pick, starting the expected run on D-men. The blue-line depth of this year’s class was highly regarded, and it showed by teams going with defensemen with eight of the first 10 picks.

---John Vogl

Sabres select center Mikhail Grigorenko with 12th overall pick

It's not often a team can pick 12th and find a player who can step into the NHL right away. The Sabres may have accomplished the feat.

Russian center Mikhail Grigorenko, ranked third by NHL Central Scouting, slipped all the way to the Sabres.

The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder put up impressive numbers with Quebec of the Ontario Hockey League. Grigorenko recorded 40 goals and 85 points in 59 games, cementing his status as one of the top players in the draft.

Questions persisted, however, about whether the 18-year-old will remain in North America or return to Russia and play in the Kontinental Hockey League.

"I was happy it was the Buffalo Sabres," Grigorenko said. "I like this team."

---John Vogl

Mikhail Grigorenko

Audio: Sabres coach Lindy Ruff from the draft floor

PITTSBURGH -- Sabres coach Lindy Ruff just finished speaking from the draft floor, and the audio is below. The coach touched on the Sabres' schedule and the maturity of this era's draft-eligible kids, among other topics.

"It’s incredible, the training, the strength, the size of some these guys," Ruff said. "Some of these kids are shooting the puck almost 100 mph coming out of junior, which years ago you never saw anything like it. The maturity level, with all the work these kids have done, again it just seems like every year they’re that much better, that much more prepared."

---John Vogl

Live from Pittsburgh -- 2012 NHL Draft

With trades at standstill on morning of draft, Sabres' Regier envisions team using its four early picks

PITTSBURGH -- With just more than seven hours to go until the start of the NHL draft, Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier believes his team is more likely to make its four early picks than trade them.

"Right now, this draft is based on using the four picks," Regier told Sabres.com. "Based on the current information, we will be picking players with those four picks versus making a trade."

The trade talk is quiet in Pittsburgh, with teams seemingly waiting for one move to ignite others.

"I think there will be a domino effect," Regier told the team website. "It is quiet. I thought Tuesday, Wednesday, those days were busier. Thursday, Friday, we’re pretty quiet."

Regier anticipates a weekend full of jockeying for draft position. The Sabres are scheduled to pick 12th and 21st in the first round, and 12th and 14th in the second.

"I just had an offer now to go from 21 to further back in the draft," Regier said on Sabres.com. "There’s a lot of movement amongst teams trying to figure out how they can get their player.

"There’s a lot of uncertainty. There’s a lot of uncertainty about where players are going to go. I think teams have a sense of who they want, but they’re not sure where those players are going to. There’s a lot of conversations about do you want to move up, do you want to move back in the draft?"

---John Vogl

Yakupov is odds-on favorite to go first in NHL draft

I've said it before and I'll say it again. If there's a sporting event, someone will find a way to gamble on it. It's no different with the NHL draft.

As usual, the folks at gambling website Bovada have sent me the odds for bets. And, as usual, here's your advice from me:

Gambling is bad. Your money is much better spent on concerts, women and whiskey.

Who will the Edmonton Oilers draft with the first overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft?  

Nail Yakupov                 1/7
Ryan Murray                  11/2
Trade Pick                     7/1

Will the Columbus Blue Jackets trade Rick Nash before the end of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft?

Yes                  3/2
No                    1/2

Will the Philadelphia Flyers trade James van Riemsdyk before the end of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft?

Yes                  3/1
No                    1/5

Will the Vancouver Canucks trade Roberto Luongo before the end of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft?

Yes                  3/1
No                    1/5

Will the Pittsburgh Penguins trade Jordan Staal before the end of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft?

Yes                  5/1
No                    1/8

How many players from the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) will be drafted in the 1st Round?          

Over / Under                  11

How many players from the Western Hockey League (WHL) will be drafted in the 1st Round?        

Over / Under                  6

How many players from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMHL) will be drafted in the 1st Round?          

Over / Under                  1.5

How many players from the USA Hockey's National Team Development Program will be drafted in the 1st Round?

Over / Under                  3

How many Forwards will be drafted in the 1st Round?         

Over / Under                  15.5

How many Defensemen will be drafted in the 1st Round?    

Over / Under                  12.5

---John Vogl

Thursday tidbits from Pittsburgh and the NHL draft prospects

PITTSBURGH -- On a hot and steamy day in the Steel City, center prospect Radek Faksa has the early candidate for quote of the weekend.

Faksa, while cruising down the river on a prospects boat cruise/media session today, got a huge grin while thinking back to his recent meetings with the Sabres.

"I remember this one girl from Buffalo," Faksa said. "She was very nice."

Other Buffalo recollections from players who will hear their names during the first round of the NHL draft Friday:

*Olli Maatta: "We took a look at the locker room, and it’s pretty nice. I’ve been there once before during the world juniors, and it’s a nice town. ... It’d be a nice city to play hockey in, of course. Another Finnish guy, [Joel] Armia [2011 first-round pick], is there, too."

*Morgan Rielly: "The people there were extremely courteous, and it’s a beautiful rink by the way. That change room and that training area is pretty special. ... Certainly, the training area there was world class. You can’t ask for too much more than you have there in Buffalo."

*Cody Ceci (who stopped at Darien Lake Theme Park on the way to Pittsburgh): "I went there [to Buffalo] right after the combine for a little bit of extra testing, and that all went well. It was a good experience. I went to Duff’s for wings, had some of those. Those were really good. [The Sabres] seemed interested, but you never know. It’s all up in the air. It’s really a mystery where I’m going right now."

Among the reports rolling out of town:

*ESPN's Pierre LeBrun says Buffalo native and Chicago forward Patrick Kane is not available on the trade market.

*TSN.ca's Bob McKenzie says Pittsburgh center Jordan Staal has rejected a 10-year contract offer from the team, which will ignite trade rumors.

For all the latest, please follow along at Twitter.com/BuffNewsVogl.

---John Vogl

Sabres' Enroth named to All-Rookie team

Sabres goaltender Jhonas Enroth, who led NHL rookie netminders with 26 appearances, has been named to the All-Rookie Team.

Enroth went 8-11-4 with a 2.70 goals-against average and .917 save percentage. Enroth joined goalie Tom Barrasso (1983-84), forward Ray Sheppard (1987-88) and defensemen Phil Housley (1982-83), Calle Johansson (1987-88) and Tyler Myers (2009-10) as the only Sabres to make the All-Rookie Team.

The Professional Hockey Writers' Association votes for the team.

---John Vogl

NHL draft preview chat with Vogl, guest Baker

NHL draft preview live chat at 11 a.m. Wednesday

Join The News' John Vogl and guest Kris Baker of SabresProspects.com to look ahead to this weekend's NHL draft.

Weigh in with your comments and questions at 11 a.m. Wednesday on the Sabres Edge blog.

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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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