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Ehrhoff working out final details to play in Germany as Sabres skate in Amherst

Christian Ehrhoff apparently will be the first member of the Buffalo Sabres to secure a job during the lockout.

Ehrhoff is in Germany finalizing a deal with the Krefeld Pinguine of the German elite league. Krefeld's advisory board is meeting to determine how it will cover the insurance for Ehrhoff, who is in the second year of a 10-year, $40 million deal with the Sabres.

The defenseman is expected to practice with the Pinguine on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, 20 players in the Sabres' organization, plus unsigned Jochen Hecht, gathered for practice in Amherst today. Retired Sabres Andrew Peters and Jay McKee led the drills for the 90-minute session.

"I’m being serious about it," Peters said in Northtown Center at Amherst. "Jay’s being serious about it. I want to help contribute to these guys staying in shape during this lockout period."

The list of Sabres who skated: Mike Weber, Steve Ott, Jordan Leopold, Matt Ellis, Brayden McNabb, Zemgus Girgensons, Andrej Sekera, Jason Pominville, Thomas Vanek, Luke Adam, Marcus Foligno, Robyn Regehr, Drew Stafford, Cody McCormick, T.J. Brennan, Drew Schiestel, Adam Pardy and goaltenders Jhonas Enroth, David Leggio and Connor Knapp. Tyler Ennis and Tyler Myers did off-ice workouts.

The players are hopeful that the lockout, which started Sunday, is a short one -- though they know it's unlikely.

"Of course we’d like to be playing," Leopold said. "The owners unfortunately want a lockout, but that’s their choice right now. There’s still some time here, and hopefully it will allow us to get something done."

---John Vogl

NHL lockout poll: Whose side are you on?

NHLPA issues video message to fans

The PR battle for support today continues. The NHLPA has released a video about the lockout.

---John Vogl

Sabres announce policy for ticket refunds

The Sabres have issued the following release regarding a refund policy for tickets in the event the lockout results in the cancellation of games:

"As of 12:01 a.m. this morning, the National Hockey League announced a work stoppage applicable to all NHL clubs, including the Buffalo Sabres.

"If the work stoppage progresses to a point where games are cancelled by the NHL, the Sabres will offer the following options to our season ticket holders and mini pack holders who have purchased tickets for the 2012-13 season:

"Option 1: At the end of each month, the Sabres will refund any games that are cancelled by the NHL. For example, on Oct. 1, the Sabres will refund all preseason games that were cancelled by the NHL in the month of September. The refund process will be communicated to our season ticket holders and mini pack ticket holders (via email and/or mail) if and when games have been cancelled by the NHL.

"Option 2: The Sabres will offer season ticket holders and mini pack ticket holders 4% simple interest per annum on the value of the games that are cancelled by the NHL.

"Ticket holders will be able to choose which option they would prefer.

"A comprehensive information guide regarding the NHL work stoppage and the Sabres’ ticket refund policy is available at Sabres.com and will be communicated to all ticket-holders through email and mail."

---John Vogl

NHL issues memo to fans, says it wants lockout to end ASAP

The NHL, which closed its doors at midnight after the collective bargaining agreement with the players expired, issued the following statement this morning:

"Despite the expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the National Hockey League has been, and remains, committed to negotiating around the clock to reach a new CBA that is fair to the Players and to the 30 NHL teams.

"Thanks to the conditions fostered by seven seasons under the previous CBA, competitive balance has created arguably the most meaningful regular season in pro sports; a different team has won the Stanley Cup every year; fans and sponsors have agreed the game is at its best, and the League has generated remarkable growth and momentum. While our last CBA negotiation resulted in a seismic change in the League's economic system, and produced corresponding on-ice benefits, our current negotiation is focused on a fairer and more sustainable division of revenues with the Players -- as well as other necessary adjustments consistent with the objectives of the economic system we developed jointly with the NHL Players' Association seven years ago. Those adjustments are attainable through sensible, focused negotiation -- not through rhetoric.

"This is a time of year for all attention to be focused on the ice, not on a meeting room. The League, the Clubs and the Players all have a stake in resolving our bargaining issues appropriately and getting the puck dropped as soon as possible. We owe it to each other, to the game and, most of all, to the fans."

---John Vogl

With no last-minute talks planned, NHL set to shut down

The collective bargaining agreement will apparently expire without a fight.

The NHL and NHL Players' Association remain so far apart in their negotiations that the league sees no reason to bargain in advance of the midnight expiration of the CBA. A lockout will ensue as soon as the deal is up.

"We spoke today and determined that there was no point in convening a formal bargaining session in light of the fact that neither side is in a position to move off of its last proposal," NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in New York. "I'm sure we will keep in touch in the coming days and schedule meetings to the extent they might be useful or appropriate. We are sorry for where we are. Not what we hoped or expected."

---John Vogl

Sabres sign Ennis to two-year deal worth $5.625 million

Tyler Ennis and the Buffalo Sabres made sure they didn't head into the lockout without a contract.

The Sabres and their premier restricted free agent agreed to a two-year deal today. The Buffalo News has learned the contract is worth $5.625 million, with the center earning $2.5625 million in 2012-13 and $3.0625 million in 2013-14.

"Tyler is a very important part of our offense and we are very happy to have him signed," Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier said in a statement. "He has progressed as a player over the past few seasons, and we are excited to see his growth, both as a person and professional, in the years to come."

Ennis, who turns 23 next month, has played 140 games with the Sabres, recording 38 goals, 54 assists and 92 points. He battled through an ankle injury last year but was strong in the second half, finishing with season totals of 15 goals and 34 points in 48 games.

Ennis spent his first season and a half with the Sabres at left wing, but with the team in dire need of help in the middle, Buffalo moved Ennis to center. In his 26 games in the middle, Ennis put up 27 points, recording 11 goals and 16 assists.

With the offseason trade of Derek Roy to Dallas, Ennis is expected to be the Sabres' No. 1 center. The Sabres made Ennis their second of two first-round picks in the 2008 entry draft.

The collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and the NHL Players' Association expires at midnight, and the owners will lock out the players unless a new deal is reached. By beating the deadline, Ennis can collect any signing bonuses before the lockout and won't be faced with the uncertainty of potentially different RFA rules in the next CBA.

---John Vogl

Tick, tick, tick, tick ...

The minutes are peeling off the clock, which means the NHL is getting ever closer to its midnight shutdown.

The collective bargaining agreement expires tonight, and the last day of the deal has started slowly. Darren Dreger of TSN reports that the second in command for the NHL and NHL Players' Association, Bill Daly and Steve Fehr, respectively, will talk this morning and set the course of action. Dreger also says neither side expects much.

The players are well-aware the league is willing to lock its doors on its employees given the past history. Commissioner Gary Bettman had a temporary lockout in 1994 and a seasonlong shutdown in 2004.

"We know the lengths that the owners and Gary are willing to go, so it is intimidating," Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller said. "All we have is our bond and how strongly we stick together and how strongly we feel about the agreement that we can work out. We strongly feel right now that our proposal is a good proposal, and what they’re proposing is not going to work for us as it’s written right now."

---John Vogl

Bettman: Owners unanimously in support of NHL's CBA plans

NEW YORK -- All 30 NHL owners are behind Gary Bettman's collective bargaining agreement and lockout plans, the commissioner said today following a meeting of the board of governors. The show of support comes just two days before the NHL is set to lock out the players if a new CBA cannot be reached with the NHL Players' Association.

The full audio of Bettman's news conference is below, as is union head Donald Fehr's chat from today. (The early scratchiness of getting the recorder situated goes away, so fight through the early part.)

---John Vogl

Gary Bettman

Donald Fehr

Audio: Ryan Miller says NHLPA's CBA plans grow the game

NEW YORK -- The NHL Players' Association had 283 players attend its two-day meetings in New York, and when the group walked into a news conference to wrap up the proceedings today, the union trotted its stars out first. Among the intial players to walk through the door was Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller.

The Buffalo News caught up with Miller following the players' meetings for an extended interview. The audio is below.

---John Vogl

NHL, NHLPA are still $1 billion apart on proposals, according to report

NEW YORK – There have been a lot of percentages thrown around during the NHL and NHL Players’ Association talks. The NHL’s latest proposal offers the players 49 percent of the revenue this year, while the players are reportedly requesting 54.3 percent.

That doesn’t seem too far apart – until the percentages are turned into actual dollars.

According to the Globe and Mail, the six-year deal proposed by the NHL and the five-year plan offered by the NHLPA differ by nearly $1 billion over the spans of the CBA. That’s $1 billion, with a b.

It’s no wonder there is little optimism the sides will come together by 11:59 p.m. Saturday, the deadline to agree to a new collective bargaining agreement and avoid a lockout.

The Globe and Mail broke down the numbers, and the players’ share of revenues in the offers differs by $210 million per season, based on present monetary growth. That’s a lot of money, and it’s actually progress. The league has offered the players $650 million more than it did compared to its first proposal.

“Until we can get some sort of commonality and closure on that issue, it’s going to be hard to address the other issues,” Commissioner Gary Bettman said Wednesday.

The players are meeting right now at their Times Square hotel, and it’s unlikely they are celebrating the NHL’s latest offer.

---John Vogl

Bettman says don't expect big news from owners meeting

NEW YORK -- The NHL's board of governors is set to meet this afternoon, with representatives of all 30 teams gathering in Manhattan just a few blocks from where more than 250 players and members of the NHL Players' Association are stationed.

While the players are expected to respond to Wednesday's collective bargaining agreement proposal made by the league, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says don't expect much from ownership's side, at least as it pertains to their meeting.

Bettman said the group gathers every September and, since they haven't met since June, the meeting is more of an update than a policy chat.

"If people are expecting dramatic news at [today's] board meeting, in advance I'll take down expectations and disappoint you," Bettman said. "I don't expect anything dramatic happening."

The board meeting, being just two days before the expiration of the CBA, was originally thought to be a gathering in which the owners would formally tell Bettman they approve of a lockout. Bettman, though, said Wednesday he already has the authority to order a lockout when the CBA expires at 11:59 p.m. Saturday.

---John Vogl

NHLPA heading to Quebec court in attempt to stop lockout

The lockout hasn't begun yet, and the NHL Players' Association is striving to make sure it doesn't.

The union and at least 16 members of the Montreal Canadiens have filed an application with the Quebec Labor Relations Board in which it asks the board to declare the looming lockout illegal. In Quebec, an employer is not allowed to lock out employees unless they belong to a union that has been certified by the Quebec labor board. The NHLPA is not a certified union in Quebec.

“The players on the Montreal Canadiens simply want the labor laws of Quebec upheld so that we can continue to play hockey while we work towards reaching a fair contract with the NHL,” Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges said in a statement.

An emergency hearing on the application is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Friday in Montreal. The NHL has said it will lock out the players if a new collective bargaining agreement is not in place by 11:59 p.m. Saturday.

---John Vogl

Crucial meeting today for NHL, NHLPA as parties gather in New York

With the lockout rapidly approaching, the NHL and NHL Players' Association are scheduled to meet today. It should go without saying that it's a crucial meeting.

If either side walks into the room with a proposal that the other views as ridiculous (which has been the case with every proposal so far), it's likely the league will steamroll toward Saturday's 11:59 p.m. expiration of the collective bargaining agreement without a new CBA.

Why? Because more than 250 players are headed to New York for meetings today and Thursday, and another insult hurled by the league would set off a Molotov cocktail and further enflame the players who can't believe the owners are trying to stick it to them again. Cooler heads in a gathering that large likely would not prevail.

Meanwhile, if the players don't budge on an offer, the cash-laden owners can sit back and say they've made proposals to benefit the sport and it's the players fault for not taking them. They'll shut things down and wait for the players to get an itch for paychecks.

Based on my chats with team employees, the owners are certain the union will crack again at some point. The thinking is the older players hoping for one more year won't want to waste another season, and younger players will just want to play. The union is a diverse group, and the league is sure it will eventually feature players seeking their own interests.

Of course, all that could be moot if the sides find some common ground during their chats today. Not too many people are counting on that.

"To this point, we have received no indication that the union has anything new to say to us. And right now, we have nothing new to say to them," Bill Daly, deputy commissioner of the NHL, wrote in an email to the Associated Press on Tuesday. "It's unfortunate, but it's the reality of the situation.

"Ultimately, we just want to negotiate a fair deal that will give all our clubs an ability to be stable and healthy. We hoped (and still hope) we can do that without causing any interruption to the upcoming season. Logic would have suggested we would have been able to. The fact that we haven't yet is extremely disappointing, and is a failure for which we both must share blame."

---John Vogl

Video: Pegula, Brown discuss HARBORcenter project at Webster Block

Sabres owner Terry Pegula joined Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown on the corner of the Webster Block this morning to discuss HARBORcenter, a $123 million project financed by the billionaire that will put two ice rinks, retail space and a hotel at the Sabres' front door. Here are some of the highlights of their news conference:

In this video, you can see how developers see the HARBORcenter project taking shape:

Pegula doesn't foresee lingering bitterness between Sabres, players if lockout occurs

Terry Pegula has enough money to pay the reported $1 million fine that NHL owners can get if they talk about the looming lockout, but the Sabres' owner obviously has no desire to donate that amount of cash. He also doesn't want to cost his team on the ice by chatting about Saturday's expiration of the collective bargaining agreement.

Pegula joined Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown on the corner of the Webster Block this morning to discuss HARBORcenter, a $123 million project financed by the billionaire that will put two ice rinks, retail space and a hotel at the Sabres' front door. It didn't take long for the chat to turn toward the lockout that will start if the NHL and NHL Players' Association don't get a new CBA by the weekend.

"I can’t tell you anything, just that talks continue," Pegula said. "I don’t want to lose draft picks."

The owner left the news conference for an appearance at the Sabres' foundation golf tournament at Park Country Club. The players and management are golfing, but contact between the sides would be forced to cease if the lockout occurs.

"That’s just a temporary thing," Pegula said. "We all know that. If anything happens, there will be no lasting effect after."

Pegula, who purchased the hockey team in February 2011, has been the Sabres' owner for only one full season and the league may shut down.

"I guess that’s part of the risk, huh?" he said.

---John Vogl

On the Sabres Beat with John Vogl

Doan tells Phoenix radio he's staying with Coyotes, saves Sabres $30 million

It appears the idea of raking in $7.5 million per year until almost age 40 wasn't enough to get Shane Doan out of Phoenix and into Buffalo.

Doan, one of the premier unrestricted free agents on the market this summer, told a Phoenix radio station Thursday night that he's planning to stay with the Coyotes.

"We have a deal worked out that we just want to make sure that the team gets signed and that everything gets done and it gets done before the 15th," Doan told XTRA 910 AM.

Doan has long professed his desire to stay in Phoenix provided the muddy ownership situation gets settled. The NHL has be running the team, but a formal sale and transfer to Greg Jamison is imminent, Doan said.

"Mr. Jamison has the money," Doan told the station. "Mr. [Gary] Bettman [the NHL commissioner] has said it's all good, according to the NHL, and it's going to go through. It's just a matter of getting the lease agreement done now. Obviously, that was done earlier. Now there are some things they decided they wanted to change, which obviously can delay things.

"With that being said, I think that Mr. Jamison and the league have stated it's really up to [the city of] Glendale, and Glendale, they had it done for awhile. So it's not like it's been up to them up to this point. But there's a couple things they want to change, and hopefully they can get the changes done and approved in the coming week."

Doan has visited with and fielded offers from several teams this summer, most notably the Sabres. Several reports, including one in The Buffalo News, said the Sabres offered Doan, who will be 36 in October, a four-year deal worth $30 million.

"You know what, the Coyotes have been more than fair to me in their offer as well," Doan said on the radio, according to a transcipt provided by the Arizona Republic. "Obviously, to pick up your family and move it would be difficult. My plan, and I've stated to anyone that has ever listened at the time, my goal has been to stay in Phoenix until I believe that the team is in that much trouble. I was gonna do everything I could to make it so I had a chance to stay here. As tempting as some of those other things were, it was more of you know what, this is the organization that gave me a chance to play in the NHL. I love it here, and the Valley has been phenomenal to me.

"For the most part, the other teams that I've talked to that have talked to me have been phenomenally patient and kind and generous with some of their offers and different things, but I'm really excited about what we can have here in Phoenix."

---John Vogl

Sabres talk in Montreal

The folks at TSN 690 in Montreal are forging ahead discussing things as we head to a hockey season that may not start on time. But those discussions are for another day, they said as they had me on the air Thursday night.

Listen below as we talk about topics such as the Sabres' playoff outlook, Tyler Ennis' contract and Lindy Ruff's status.

Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Video: Sabres 'Invade Canada'

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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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