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Kaleta signs multi-year deal with Sabres

Forward Patrick Kaleta signed a multi-year contract to remain with the Buffalo Sabres, the team announced today.

Kaleta, an Angola native, has spent his entire career with the Sabres and was a restricted free agent this summer. More information will be announced at a news conference Wednesday morning.

A bruiser known more for his aggressive play than his goal-scoring ability, Kaleta led the Sabres with 116 penalty minutes last year. He was also credited with the second-most hits on the team behind Robyn Regehr, though his 139 hits were only good for 92nd in the league.

The 10 points Kaleta had last year (5+5) marked his second-highest season output, while 63 games played was a new career-best, including years the Sabres made the playoffs. A bottom-six forward, he averaged 13 minutes and 9 seconds of ice time per game.

Kaleta had a cap hit of $907,500 the last two years, according to Cap Geek.

---Nick Veronica

Twitter: @NickVeronica

 

On Doan, Darcy, Ryan and the Flyers

DoanReading plenty of stories today in the wake of the Predators matching the Flyers' offer sheet for Shea Weber and I was taken aback by a tweet from NHL.com senior writer Dan Rosen about how the Flyers have been striking out all summer.

No Ryan Suter or Zach Parise. No Rick Nash. No Weber. I'll throw in no re-sign of Matt Carle or Jaromir Jagr and the somewhat-goofy trade of James van Riemsdyk for Luke Schenn too. All that's seemingly left for them to grab among big names are Shane Doan (above) and Bobby Ryan. You would think GM Paul Holmgren is not going to sit by idly.

Hmmm. That's not good news for the Sabres. 

Doan visited with the Rangers last Friday and met with the Flyers on Saturday. He's also hitting Montreal this week. Doan's agent, Terry Bross, confirmed to me via email a couple of days ago that he's had multiple conversations with Darcy Regier but that Doan's potential decision day is "still fluid" pending the outcome of the ownership mess in Phoenix. At present, there is no visit scheduled for Buffalo.

It's plainly obvious Doan's No. 1 choice is to stay with the Coyotes or he would have gone somewhere else already. Given that, if he doesn't make a decision to stay in Phoenix, he's almost certainly going to go to New York, Philly, Pittsburgh or perhaps Detroit over Buffalo. And don't count out Vancouver or the Rangers either, even though the Blueshirts just traded for Nash. What a double play that might be.

Then there's Bobby Ryan. The Sabres have wanted him for months. He's from South Jersey, across the bridge from Philly. He's OK with getting out of Anaheim. Is he landing in Buffalo or Philly or maybe Boston?

The Flyers have to part with Brayden Schenn or Sean Couturier. Similarly, the Sabres don't figure to be interested in moving Tyler Ennis or many other of their young forwards. They have an overabundance of defensemen they could move, either on the roster now (Andrej Sekera and Jordan Leopold) or on the cusp of getting there (Mark Pysyk) but the Ducks will want a forward. Or two.

It all comes down to the Sabres' recruiting problem. The word gets around this is a good place to live with a great owner. But it's not attractive to players who want to win a Stanley Cup -- yet. Are you going to go to Pittsburgh, Philly or New York or come to Buffalo, where the team took a step back and didn't even make the playoffs last season?

If Regier lands either Doan or Ryan, he'll be pulling a major rabbit out of his hat. The Flyers, meanwhile, think they darn well better get at least one of them.

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

Photo: Getty Images

BlueJackets deal Nash (finally) -- to Rangers

After months of posturing, disgruntled Columbus captain Rick Nash has been traded to the New York Rangers. Between the work of TSN and the Columbus Dispatch, we learned Nash was dealt for Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon and a first-round pick. A third-round pick and a minor-leaguer will be going from Columbus back to the Rangers.

Count me in the underwhelmed category. 

Columbus GM Scott Howson has had his hands tied by Nash's approved teams list on this whole deal, no doubt. But if this was haul he was going to get for the face of his franchise, he should have made the deal a long time ago. He probably could have gotten more at the trade deadline and he certainly could have gotten at least this at the draft in Pittsburgh.

Ultimately, both the BlueJackets and Nash needed to cut bait and move on. And the Rangers got away without parting with Michael Del Zotto, Derek Stepan or Chris Krieder. Pretty slick on their part.

I've never been a big Nash guy. He's got exactly one 70-point season in his career. He's not a superstar player, no matter what everyone says. But he's a top-6 forward and the Rangers certainly needed another one of those. They were two games away from the Stanley Cup final last year and the offense was a big issue.

Nash will certainly help. But let's not forget: Nash has not won a single playoff game in his career. He's hardly going to put New York over the top on his own.

It was just time to get this whole thing over with. Now the world can move on to Shane Doan, with the Rangers apparently interested in him as well. So are the Sabres. And the  Red Wings, Flyers and Penguins. Good luck to Darcy Regier on that front. Especially since Doan's preference is clearly to stay in Phoenix if ownership issues are solved (the Sabres, remember, were not on Nash's list of approved teams).

Still stands to reason Bobby Ryan would be a better choice for Buffalo if Regier could pull that off. But he's known to favor Philadelphia, which will certainly go all-in on Ryan if it doesn't land Shea Weber. 

Stay tuned.

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

 

Kane on Wisconsin drinking photos: 'It was embarrassing'

At the opening of the annual Blackhawks Convention in Chicago late Friday afternoon, South Buffalo native Patrick Kane had his first meeting with the media since photos of him partying in Madison, Wisc., surfaced in May and landed all over the Internet, notably at Deadspin.com.

"It’s something that hopefully I can learn and mature from," Kane said. "It’s still part of my maturation process and something I’m still trying to get better at. And the biggest thing, it was embarrassing. ... It’s not who I want to be. I want to be someone who can be a role model to kids and to everyone for that matter. It’s something I’m looking to put behind me and try and move forward and be the best person and player I can be."

The Chicago Sun-Times reported last month that the organization was concerned enough to inquire about alcohol counseling for Kane. He said today, however, that he does not have an alcohol problem.

"I don’t think so," Kane said. "It’s something I put behind me and something I don’t want to put myself in that position again but, no, I don’t think I do."

That said, it's widely known the Blackhawks are disturbed by Kane's off-ice behavior, particularly when compared to the maturity and leadership of captain Jonathan Toews. You wonder what the team will do if No. 88 has any more missteps.

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

Grigorenko signs with Sabres

Buffalo Sabres first-round draft pick Mikhail Grigorenko said at development camp last week his only goal for this year was to make the NHL.

He took a step in the right direction Wednesday morning, signing a three-year, entry-level contract. 

[UPDATE: Grigorenko's deal has a cap hit of $1.775 million per year, which includes bonuses on a $925,000 NHL base salary, according to CapGeek.] 

The 6-foot-3 forward had 85 points in 59 games last year with the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, putting him eighth in scoring in just his first year in the league.

Grigorenko, the 12th-overall draft pick who turned 18 in May, centered fellow first-round picks Joel Armia (16th overall, 2011) and Zemgus Girgensons (14th overall, 2012) on a line at camp last week. Girgensons signed a three-year contract last week. 

More details will be announced at a 2:30 p.m. news conference. 

 

---Nick Veronica

Twitter: @NickVeronica

 

Video: Sabres' Regier, Girgensons discussing signing

Girgensons makes the tough decision, signs Sabres deal

Zemgus Girgensons made it pretty clear at the NHL Draft in Pittsburgh that he expected to attend the University of Vermont this fall after a strong career with Dubuque of the United States Hockey League. Then he came to Sabres development camp and was one of the standout players. The 18-year-old had what he called the toughest decision of his life to make but how tough could it have been.

Girgensons called UVM coach Kevin Sneddon late Thursday night and the Sabres officially announced today that the Latvian center taken 14th overall has signed a three-year, entry-level contract (terms undisclosed).

"It was laying on my mind heavy because I was close to Vermont and it was a really tough decision for a kid to make," Girgensons said of his choice today in First Niagara Center. "No one was pushing me anywhere. I was the only one who made this decision. I gave them a call and he understood everything. We're so close that he didn't have problems with me going there. He knew this might happen and he was prepared." 

"We're delighted to have him here, delighted he joined us to play pro," said GM Darcy Regier. "We think that he's a prototype NHL player, Buffalo Sabre player and will be able to make that transition from the USHL to professional hockey."

Regier said he had seen Girgensons mostly on video but was impressed with the way he compared to returning players in camp such as Cody Hodgson, Luke Adam and Marcus Foligno.

"We had a good idea of what his game is going to be but I think you get a different sense of the level," Regier said. "And we're confident he'll do well at the pro level."

Girgensons is likely ticketed for Rochester to start the season unless he can make a huge impression during training camp (presuming there is one). Can he be in the NHL this year?

"It probably just depends on me," he said. "Just how good I develop in the next two months, how much weight I put on, how much mentally stronger I get."

Click below to hear the comments of Regier and Girgensons from today's press conference.


Darcy Regier/Zemgus Girgensons

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

Girgensons signs entry-level deal with Sabres

Zemgus Girgensons pretty much hinted last night that there was a good chance he was signing with the Sabres today rather than playing next season for the University of Vermont.

And that's apparently what's happened.  Both Vermont and the Dubuque Fighting Saints, his United States Hockey League team, have announced Girgensons has signed a three-year entry-level contract. (2:20 p.m. update: The Sabres have now announced the deal, and Girgensons and GM Darcy Regier will meet the media at 3:30)

Girgensons, taken 14th overall in last month's draft in Pittsburgh, will likely start his season in Rochester. But he was impressive in development camp this week, actually outplaying top pick Mikhail Grigorenko, and will certainly get a look for the big club at main camp in September.

"It is with mixed emotions that I announce that Zemgus Girgensons will not enroll at UVM in September and instead sign an NHL contract with the Buffalo Sabres," Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon said in a statement released by the school.

"Throughout the recruiting process, Zemgus has been very loyal to UVM, turning down offers to play Major Junior Hockey as well as Russia's premier professional league, the KHL, in order to maintain his goal of playing for the Catamounts. We have stated often that if we are going to lose Zemgus, we hope it's to the NHL team that selects him in the draft. Buffalo feels confident that Zemgus can play for them this year as well as with the Rochester Americans of the AHL.

"We support Zemgus and wish him the best of luck as he begins his professional career with Buffalo.

Girgensons led Dubuque in scoring last season 24 goals and 55 points. He was the team captain and an All-USHL First Teamer. He also became the highest-drafted Latvian in NHL history. The 6-foot-2, 198-pound Girgensons scored a nifty goal during Thursday's camp scrimmage and was a physical force all four days.

"I would like to thank Coach Sneddon and his staff for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime to play for UVM," Girgensons said in a Vermont statement. "This was a very difficult decision for me to say the least.

"I always felt that the NCAA was the best way for me to develop on and off the ice. After attending the Buffalo Sabres camp, and learning their plans for me, I feel I am ready to begin my professional career."

GM Darcy Regier said Thursday night negotiations are continuing with Grigorenko on an entry-level deal. He cannot play in Rochester this year; he can only play for the Sabres or return to junior hockey with the Quebec Ramparts.

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

Quick notes from Darcy: Roy's surgery a choice by Stars, Sabres say no to return of Dom

Yes, Derek Roy had a bum shoulder all last year with the Sabres. Yes, he played through it and would have again had he stayed.

So said GM Darcy Regier this evening in a chat with reporters during the team's Blue-Gold development camp scrimmage. Dallas Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk said yesterday that the decision by Roy to have surgery was made after deeper medical tests; Roy had already cleared a physical prior to the teams' trade.

"I'm very confident in the decision by our medical staff," Regier said. "He played with it last year and he could have played with it again this year. It was a decision by the Dallas Stars. It's as simple as that. We were very comfortable with his situation."

In other news:

---Regier acknowledged he joined Lindy Ruff in a couple of meetings with Dominik Hasek about the Sabres' goalie possibly making a return to the NHL but that Buffalo has passed.

"One thing I am sure of: He has no doubt in his mind that he can play," Regier said. "I think it probably gives him a little bit of lift seeing somebody like Brodeur play at 40 in the Stanley Cup final. I know better than to question Dom's desire and his ability. Unfortunately, it's not something that was going to fit here."

---Regier said contract negotiations are continuing with first-round pick Mikhail Grigorenko and that he continues to wait on Phoenix free agent Shane Doan, who is said to still be holding off on accepting offers while he sees if the Coyotes' ownership situation gets settled.

---The Sabres announced the attendance at tonight's scrimmage was 5,073.

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

Sabres announce Alumni Plaza

The Buffalo Sabres will announce plans for an “Alumni Plaza” during a news conference at noon Thursday.

It has long been rumored the Sabres have had plans to erect statues of former players, including the French Connection and other players who have their numbers in the rafters at the First Niagara Center. 

Sabres Vice President of Public and Community Relations Mike Gilbert said the team would have no comment until the news conference. 

Sabres owner Terry Pegula has openly expressed his admiration for the French Connection. He cried after meeting former Sabre greats during his introductory news conference in February 2011 and told Gilbert Perreault, “You're my hero.” Pegula also hosted a community memorial service in the arena for Martin when died in March that year.

Fans can see the team Thursday night as the Blue-Gold scrimmage wraps up the Sabres’ week-long development camp. Prospects will play three 20-minute periods with a shootout to follow and penalty shots will replace man-advantages. Doors open at 5:30 ahead of the 6 p.m. start; cost is $10.

---Nick Veronica

Twitter: @NickVeronica

Son of Patrick Roy impressing at Sabres camp

Those who were glad to see Derek Roy shipped out of Buffalo needn’t worry about the name that’s been floating around ice at Sabres prospect camp this week.

Frederick Roy has no relation to the former Sabres center. His NHL bloodlines are even better.

Frederick is the son of Patrick Roy, the Hall-of-Famer who was the winningest goalie in NHL history when he retired in 2003 (551 wins), only to be passed by Martin Brodeur, who has 656 and counting.

“[The name] has followed me my whole life,” Frederick said after practice Tuesday at the First Niagara Center. “I’m proud of what my father did and accomplished in his career. For me, he’s a role model.

“He taught me there’s one way to play to game: the hard way. It’s 100 percent every time I step on that ice. I give my heart and soul to the team I’m playing with.”

Last season, that team was the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), coached by none other than Patrick Roy.

“We [manage that relationship] that really well.” Frederick said of playing for his dad. “We knew that when we got to the ice rink, it was business. I was just another player. At home, we’re really close and we’re really good friends and everything.”

Roy’s size -- he's listed for camp at 5-foot-10, 160 pounds -- may have been a contributing factor to why he wasn’t drafted, but his numbers are there. He scored 53 goals in the last two years with Quebec and put up 92 points in 64 games last season while on a line with Sabres’ first-round pick Mikhail Grigorenko, who couldn’t say enough about Roy.

“I was playing with him all year long, I think he was one of the best linemates in my life,” Grigorenko said. “With him, he makes you better. He’ll always support you and he works hard and he wins all his battles and he’s a really smart player and he always passes the puck. For me, I really enjoyed to play with him.”

Roy also knows development camp member Marcus Foligno. Foligno’s father (and former Sabre) Mike was an assistant coach with Colorado in the late ‘90s while Patrick Roy was on the team. Foligno said he and Frederick enjoyed horsing around in the locker room together as 8- and 9-year-olds.

Frederick originally tried to be a goalie like dad, but said he “didn’t have the patience for it.”

Roy is eager to prove teams wrong for passing over him. He cites improvements to his speed and overall strength as areas to improve on but thinks he has a shot to earn a minor-league contract out of camp.

“I play both ways of the ice,” Roy said. “I can score, I can pass. I’m more of a playmaker. I can play D-zone, I like to finish my checks. ... I just have to show the scouts and the coaches and everyone else.”

---Nick Veronica

Twitter: @NickVeronica

Five absent as Sabres open development camp

Five of last year's Buffalo Sabres who played a combined 145 games headlined the participants of team's development camp today at the First Niagara Center, which includes practice sessions Tuesday and Wednesday mornings before a Blue-Gold scrimmage Thursday night. 

Forwards Luke Adam, Marcus Foligno, Cody Hodgson and Corey Tropp and defenseman Brayden McNabb gave a veteran presence to a group of 39 professional, junior and college players the Sabres hope may one day contribute to the big club.

Sabres first-round draft picks Mikhail Grigorenko, Zemgus Girgensons, Joel Armia (2011) and Mark Pysyk (2010) are also in attendance.

The original list of camp participants included 40 names, but was reduced when Lake Superior State product Kyle Jean signed with the New York Rangers last week.

Of the 39 players listed as participating in the camp, 35 skated in practice. Defensemen Mark Adams and Brady Austin, along with forward Shawn Szydlowski, did not appear on the roster for practice groups. Forwards Christian Isackson and Jacob Lagace were listed on the practice sheet but did not appear on the ice.

Sabres officials said all five players are in Buffalo for camp. Though the players had an intense early-morning workout, the team said none of the absences were injury-related. 

A full list of participants can be found here.

...

Practice opens again tomorrow at 10 a.m. and runs until 12:30 p.m. Practice sessions are free and open to the public, while Thursday's scrimmage costs $10. Those interested in coming down to the arena should bring an extra layer -- fans in shorts and t-shirts learned the hard way Monday.

---Nick Veronica

Twitter: @NickVeronica

Leipold sparks Wild week

It wasn't exactly a wild week in free agency, but it was the Wild's week thanks to Minnesota owner Craig Leipold committing $196 million to Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. The Wild landed the top two players available in unrestricted free agency.

It leads us to a few questions:

Did they get good market value or overpay?

Will they suffer from buyer's remorse?

Are the playoffs a certainty?

My take: The Wild better make the playoffs and should. Parise and Suter are both good players who can make a difference on their own while adding talent and overall depth to their team. Neither is an elite player in my book, which to me means they were overpaid. The Wild aren't going to regret signing them and making a huge splash in the Twin Cities, but the cost will likely lead to buyer's remorse.

Their deals are merely going to raise the cost of doing business in the NHL at a time owners are expected to look for a larger percentage of revenue in the upcoming collective bargaining agreement. How they can they suggest they need more when they're spending that kind of dough?

For a more extensive look at the first week of free agency, check out my analysis in Monday's editions of The Buffalo News.

--- Bucky Gleason

 

Report: Sabres re-sign Leggio

The Sabres, who were in need of a veteran goaltender for Rochester, are sticking with a familiar face. Buffalo has agreed to a one-year deal with David Leggio, the Williamsville native who manned the crease for the Sabres' minor-league club the past two seasons, according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

Leggio, an unrestricted free agent, played 54 games for the Amerks last season as the No. 1 netminder. He went 28-24-2 with a 2.63 goals-against average and .917 save percentage. He also was in the crease 36 times for the Portland Pirates in 2010-11 when they were the Sabres’ affiliate.

The Sabres have first-year pros Connor Knapp and Nathan Lieuwen slated to compete for time with the Amerks. Knapp, a sixth-round pick in 2009, just completed his collegiate career at Miami of Ohio. Lieuwen, a sixth-round pick in 2011, finished his final season with Kootenay of the Western Hockey League.

---John Vogl

Foligno, Hodgson, Grigorenko, Armia among big names attending Sabres' development camp

The Sabres' development camp kicks off this weekend, with sessions available to the public from Monday to Thursday. Here are the players scheduled to attend:

FORWARDS

Luke Adam, Joel Armia, Riley Boychuk, Daniel Catenacci, Brian Flynn, Marcus Foligno, Zemgus Girgensons, Mikhail Grigorenko, Cody Hodgson, Christian Isackson, Colin Jacobs, Kyle Jean, Justin Jokinen, Justin Kea, Jacob Legace, Brad Navin, Logan Nelson, Jonathan Parker, Judd Peterson, Frederick Roy, Kevin Sundher, Shawn Szydlowski, Corey Tropp, Phil Varone.

DEFENSMEN

Mark Adams, Brady Austin, Mackenzie Braid, Nick Crawford, Kevin Czuczman, Corey Fienhage, Jerome Gauthier-Leduc, Alex Lepkowski, Matt MacKenzie, Jake McCabe, Brayden McNabb, Mark Pysyk.

GOALTENDERS

Mark Guggenberger, Connor Knapp, Nathan Lieuwen, Linus Ullmark.

Here is a detailed look at the 2012 Development Camp Roster.

---John Vogl


Agent: Sabres sign Kevin Porter, former Hobey Baker winner

The center-thin Sabres have added a middle man to the organization, signing former Hobey Baker winner Kevin Porter, according to a Tweet by his agent.

Porter won college hockey's top prize in 2008 after recording 33 goals and 63 points in 43 games with Michigan.

The 26-year-old has yet to duplicate that success in the NHL. He played 35 games for Colorado last season, recording four goals and seven points. He had 14 goals and 25 points in 74 games with the Avalanche in 2010-11.

The 6-foot, 190-pounder was a fourth-round pick by Phoenix in 2004.

---John Vogl

New CBA should include New Era cap

Zach Parise and Ryan Suter hit the jackpot today with identical 13-year contracts worth $98 million with the Minnesota Wild, who shifted from NHL afterthought to playoff contender with a few strokes of a pen. The Fourth of July was one to remember in Minneapolis.

The veteran winger and defenseman were the top two players on the open market, so nabbing both was an obvious coup for the Wild. The Devils and Predators aren't too thrilled about losing their superstars, and the Penguins (Parise) and Red Wings (Suter) aren't happy after getting snubbed. Hockey can be an unforgiving business.

Parise and Suter quietly joined forces last season and talked about playing together before everything came together today. They deserve credit for maximizing their places in the open market, and management deserves credit for making it happen. Just know that their contracts are basically fiction given the way they were structured.

Both are getting paid $35 million in the first three years of the deal and $80 million over the first eight. They will count only $7.5 million against the salary cap because they're set to make a grand total of $4 million over the final three years. Bet on both retiring before they play the final two seasons for $1 million each, which to them amounts to minimum wage.

The front-loaded contracts signed in recent years have become ridiculous. The problem needs to be addressed in negotiations for the new collective bargaining agreement.

They will join Brad Richards and Tyler Myers in a group of players who are set to be paid $12 million for the upcoming season. All four plus Ilya Kovalchuk and Vincent Lecavalier will make $10 million or more this season. Myers’ is scheduled to make $3 million in the final year of his deal, but each of the others has at least one season on their contracts that calls for a $1 million salary.

It's all within the rules, but the front-loaded deals circumvent the spirit of the current CBA and the salary-cap process. The CBA was written, in part, with the idea it would protect the owners from themselves. And yet they're the ones compromising the system.

Suggestion for the next CBA: Use actual salaries as the salary cap figures. If you're making $10 million next season, you should count $10 million against the cap rather than taking the total amount and dividing it by the numbers of years in the deal. It would make for a true cap.

Who wouldn't like a genuine, New Era cap?

--- Bucky Gleason

The time Derek Roy thought reporters got traded

By Tim Graham

When the Buffalo Sabres traded center Derek Roy on Monday, it reminded me of the time goaltender Martin Biron and I convinced Roy that I was on the verge of getting traded to Newsday.

I referenced the story in a tweet that generated a healthy response. People wanted to know the details. So, inspired by similar anecdotes I've been reading the past few days in Frank Deford's excellent autobiography "Over Time," here's just one of a thousand behind-the-scene stories I can tell from two decades hanging out in locker rooms.

A day or two before the NHL trade deadline in February 2007, I leaned against the wall in a nearly empty Sabres dressing room, waiting to interview a particular player. I don't recall who.

Biron and I were about five feet apart on opposite sides of the entryway. He was inspecting his leg pads at his locker stall. Roy sat at his locker way down the row to Biron's left. Jason Pominville was down the row of lockers to my right.

On the large, flat-screen television was a TSN show dissecting trade-deadline rumors.

Ever since Ryan Miller emerged as the franchise goalie, Biron's name frequently got bandied about as trade bait. He was anxious about getting dealt, and this time he would be -- to the Philadelphia Flyers. By this time, Biron and I had known each other for seven years and enjoyed many conversations never meant for the paper.

With my notepad in my back pocket and no recorder I asked Biron -- just two guys talking -- how he was holding up. He said something diplomatic, but he silently telegraphed, with a theatrical roll of the eyes, that he was stressing out. Then, in typical Biron fashion, he quickly tried to turn the situation into a joke.

"How are you hanging in there, Tim?" Biron asked. "Do you think you'll get traded this year?"

Those who know me are aware my sense of humor can be drier than powdered gin. So I deadpanned that my agent was hearing Newsday and the Boston Globe had called The Buffalo News about me and wanted to know what it would take to close a deal.

Biron, equally as sarcastic, started to express sympathy for my predicament. Roy hollered "Bulls---! Reporters don't get traded."

I gently informed Roy newspapers make trades all the time. "Yeah, that's true!" Biron chirped. I explained when NHL teams are about to make the playoffs, their local newspapers sometimes need to bolster coverage for the stretch run. Sometimes they have too many editors and need to acquire reporters. Or vice versa.

The New York Islanders, under Ted Nolan, had been one of hockey's most exciting stories that season and were gunning for a playoff berth. Newsday wanted go all-in. As for the Globe, I wasn't sure what its motive was because the Boston Bruins didn't look like a playoff team. Maybe the Globe needed to unload a contract or wanted me for depth.

Roy, about to turn 24 and in his fourth NHL season (counting the lockout), stared off in the distance and nodded his head, satisfied with this new bit of insight.

Unfortunately, the ruse wouldn't last long -- not nearly as long as the time I used a tape-delayed boxing match to persuade defenseman Alexei Zhitnik into thinking I was a legitimate psychic by predicting the exact round and method that massive underdog Corrie Sanders would whip Zhitnik's countryman and friend Wladimir Klitschko.

I shifted a glance to Pominville. I could tell he wasn't buying it, and he was about to say something.

Biron and I cracked. We told Roy we were just screwing with him.

Roy didn't think it was as funny as we did.

A look at the Sabres' depth chart: holes in the middle, surplus in the back

The Sabres' acquisition of left wing Steve Ott and defenseman Adam Pardy for center Derek Roy was essentially about swapping grit for playmaking. Ott won't put up nearly a point per game like Roy did, but he also won't put up with opponents getting out of line or teammates taking nights off.

Another aspect of the trade is it seriously altered the Sabres' depth chart.

The Sabres are extremely thin at center, overflowing on defense and well-stocked at left wing. Here is The News' analysis, based on the organization's use of the players. The skaters are listed in terms of ranking at position, not by potential linemates:

Left wing                            Center                        Right wing

Thomas Vanek                    Tyler Ennis                    Jason Pominville

Marcus Foligno                    Cody Hodgson                Drew Stafford

Steve Ott                            Matt Ellis                            Patrick Kaleta

Ville Leino                          Cody McCormick            Corey Tropp

Nathan Gerbe                        Luke Adam            

John Scott

 

Left-handed defensemen        Right-handed defensemen

Christian Ehrhoff                            Tyler Myers

Jordan Leopold

Andrej Sekera

Robyn Regehr

Alexander Sulzer

Mike Weber

Adam Pardy

Brayden McNabb

T.J. Brennan

                Goaltenders

                    Ryan Miller

                    Jhonas Enroth

The middle is definitely concerning for the Sabres, who are open with their desire to add another center. Ennis and Hodgson have talent, but they are just 22 years old and have no experience carrying an NHL top line. For anyone who doesn't think that matters, just look back to the Sabres' struggles at filling the No. 1 role once Chris Drury and Daniel Briere left.

Luke Adam might rebound from his post-All-Star Game benching and second-half demotion, but he is also just 22. Leino has little to no desire to play center. Ott took the second-most faceoffs for Dallas last season, but he has spent nearly all of his career at left wing. He can step into the circle, but he's more comfortable returning to the boards after the puck drops.

"I’ve played 90 percent as a winger in the league, and since junior I’ve been a left winger," Ott said by phone. "Taking faceoffs is obviously adjusting and learning more of the game and finding ways to be on the ice more. If it’s taking faceoffs in the last minute or important draws on penalty kills or power plays, those things add up to being a more versatile player, and that’s something that I’ve always envisioned myself as being more a more complete player as I adjust my career."

Buffalo has extra depth at left wing with the addition of Ott. Vanek is a top-line talent, while Foligno showed top-six status with a stellar run at the end of last season. Ott will get substantial minutes. Leino and Gerbe will need to rebound from disappointing seasons. Scott will dress when the Sabres face the Boston Bruins and other physical teams.

The Sabres seem to have the right mix of skill and truculence at right wing with Pominville and Stafford being complemented by Kaleta and Tropp.

Obviously, left-handed D-men play on the right side, but overloading the left was just to give you a look at the actual depth. The top six figures to be Myers, Ehrhoff, Leopold, Sekera, Regehr and Sulzer. That leaves Weber and Pardy as two reserves. It's not out of the realm of possibility that Buffalo would send Pardy and his $2 million salary to Rochester like the team did with Shaone Morrisonn last year. Darcy Regier says McNabb is penciled in for the Amerks, but he has the talent to play in the NHL and makes players in the top six expendable.

Given the obvious holes and surpluses, it's unlikely the Sabres are done remaking their roster.

---John Vogl

Steve Ott excited about opportunity with Buffalo Sabres

Folks in Dallas love Steve Ott. The feeling is mutual. The feisty forward grew as a hockey player and person while wearing a star on his chest.

“I’ve kind of turned into a man there in my time,” Ott said tonight. “To say that it was a big part of my life would be an understatement.”

As much as Ott appreciates Dallas, the feeling is overshadowed by his excitement of coming to Buffalo.

The Sabres acquired Ott today as part of an early summer blockbuster, picking up the 29-year-old spark plug plus defenseman Adam Pardy from Dallas. In exchange, the Sabres sent former perennial scoring leader Derek Roy to the Stars.

“I’m a guy that looks forward to an excellent opportunity and a new opportunity,” Ott said by phone from his summer home near Windsor, Ont. “I love challenges, and if this is going to be a new challenge or a new adventure in my life, I’m really looking forward to this adventure more than anything.

“I’m excited. Absolutely. It’s almost like draft day again. You get a new sense of energy. It’s something that I love to prove to people where I belong. Buffalo wanted me, and I don’t want to prove them wrong. Also at the same time, I want to prove to Dallas of what they missed out on. First most, I want to prove to Buffalo what type of player I am and what I can bring to that team.”

Ott instantly adds competitiveness to a lineup that needed it. The 6-foot, 190-pounder had 11 goals, 39 points and 156 penalty minutes last season while serving as alternate captain of the Stars. His drive to win and battle earned him legions of fans in Dallas – and enemies around the NHL.

“I hope I can bring that attitude,” said Ott, who has two years left on a contract that pays $2.95 million per season. “I want to bring my consistency of being hard to play against every single night. I feel I’ve done that since the start of my career, and I feel I have a ton of game left. I haven’t even reached part of my peak yet.”

---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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