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Sabres looking for veteran leadership, and Brian Gionta has Buffalo as a possible destination

By John Vogl

Tim Murray insists the Sabres' prospects aren't going to figure out life in the NHL on their own. The general manager wants to bring in veterans to help show the way.

Brian Gionta is on that list. More importantly, the Sabres are on his.

The Montreal captain has Buffalo as a possible destination, according to a source. Gionta is from Rochester, and the 35-year-old could be interested in closing his career near home.

Gionta is finishing a five-year, $25 million deal. He had 18 goals and 40 points in 81 games this season, and he added six assists and seven points in 17 playoff games.

"We’re in a position here that we could use a couple veteran guys," Murray said today. "On our free agent list there’s quite a few that fit our need for character, for leadership and all that stuff.

"I’d like to acquire a couple veteran guys that can play the game but can also show our kids how to be pros, how to play properly, how to look after yourself, so I am going to put a focus on at least two of those guys."

Sabres decline qualifying offer for Conacher; Canisius grad will be free agent

By John Vogl

Cory Conacher's homecoming was a short one.

The Buffalo Sabres have elected not to give a qualifying offer to the restricted free agent, according to his representatives at Uptown Sports. Conacher will be an unrestricted free agent and able to sign with any team at noon Tuesday.

The Sabres claimed the former Canisius College star off waivers from Ottawa in March. The 24-year-old relished the chance to recapture his game in Buffalo, but he foundered with only three goals and six points in 19 games.

Conacher's qualifying offer would have cost the Sabres $874,125.

Sam Reinhart meets the Buffalo media: On family help, expectations & more

Sam Reinhart met with the Buffalo media Monday afternoon. (James P. McCoy/Buffalo News)
Sam Reinhart met with the Buffalo media Monday afternoon at First Niagara Center. (James P. McCoy/Buffalo News)

By Amy Moritz

Tim Murray sat at the table with Sam Reinhart, facing the Buffalo media gathered for the press conference.

"I'd officially like to welcome Sam to Buffalo," the Sabres general manager said.

"These are the faces you’re going to see on a nightly basis," Murray said to Reinhart, alluding to the local media. "And the people you’re going have to answer to when you don’t play as well as I told them you were going to play."

Reinhart smiled, but it didn't seem to faze him. The 18-year-old was the second overall pick at the NHL draft on Friday and the prospect the Sabres hope will anchor their rebuild.

Continue reading "Sam Reinhart meets the Buffalo media: On family help, expectations & more" »

Sabres' Murray still not concerned with cap floor, is targeting veteran free agents; McBain not qualified

198102  McCoy Sports Sabres
Sabres general manager Tim Murray introduces first-round draft pick Sam Reinhart at a press conference at First Niagara Center today. (James P. McCoy/ Buffalo News)

By John Vogl

The Buffalo Sabres are about $20 million away from the salary cap floor on the day before free agency, and General Manager Tim Murray remains unconcerned about his ability to reach it.

Murray, who introduced first-round draft pick Sam Reinhart this morning in First Niagara Center, says plenty of teams near the cap ceiling will start dumping contracts if they get their free-agent targets. That will be benefit the Sabres in their attempt to boost payroll.

Murray says he's been getting a lot of calls from representatives of unrestricted free agents, but he's not sure if the Sabres are first on the players' lists or 20th. That holds true for Steve Ott and Matt Moulson.

The Sabres' top free-agent targets will be older, character guys who can help mentor the prospects. Murray said this crop is filled with those players, but they shouldn't expect more than a one- or two-year deal because the GM doesn't want his prospects' path to the NHL blocked when they're ready to make the jump.

Today is the deadline for restricted free agents to receive qualifying offers, and Murray said defenseman Jamie McBain and goalie Connor Knapp will not be qualified. That makes them unrestricted free agents.

Cory Conacher, according to Murray, is a "maybe" get a qualifying offer. Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno, Chad Ruhwedel, Luke Adam and Matt Hackett will all be qualified.

To hear from Murray and Reinhart, click the audio file below

How GM Tim Murray has put his imprint on the Sabres: Links, audio & coverage from a big weekend

John Vogl's analysis in today's Buffalo News explains how new General Manager Tim Murray has gone about trying to change not only the culture of the Sabres, but how they go about doing business. 

Here's more information on how he's left an impression: 

* * * 

This weekend's NHL Draft was one in which Murray and his scouting team focused on going after high-end potential.

Here are the Sabres' picks (photo gallery here) and related coverage:

Listed by round (overall in parentheses):

1 (2) Sam Reinhart, C, Kootenay (WHL)

Sabres get their Sam with second overall pick 

Third-round pick Brycen Martin's take on Reinhart from Mike Harrington's draft notebook

Sam Reinhart AUDIO

Tim Murray AUDIO wrapping up first day of draft

From draft previews: Sam Reinhart capsule & feature story

2 (31) Brendan Lemieux, LW, Barrie (OHL) John Vogl's draft story | Must-listen AUDIO from Brendan | AUDIO from father Claude Lemieux

2 (44) Eric Cornel, C, Peterborough (OHL) Mike Harrington's draft notebook

2 (49) Vaclav Karabacek, RW, Gatineau (QMJHL) Mike Harrington's draft notebook

3 (61) Jonas Johansson, G, Brynas Jr. (Sweden) Mike Harrington's draft notebook

3 (74) Brycen Martin, D, Swift Current (WHL) Mike Harrington's draft notebook

5 (121) Maxwell Willman, C, Williston-Northampton H.S. (Mass.) Mike Harrington's draft notebook

6 (151) Christopher Brown, C, Cranbrook Kingswood H.S. (Mich.) Mike Harrington's draft notebook

7 (181) Victor Olofsson, RW, Modo Jr. (Sweden) Mike Harrington's draft notebook

* * * 

Think a seventh-rounder can't make a difference? Want to see how many top 10 overall picks the Sabres have had? 

* * * 

Stay with Sabres Edge for what will continue to be a busy week for the Sabres and the NHL. 

Bought-out Ehrhoff thanks Sabres fans via Twitter

By John Vogl

Christian Ehrhoff, who had the remaining seven years of his Sabres contract bought out today, took to Twitter to thank the fans of Buffalo and Western New York.

Tim Murray to Buffalo News: Sabres buy out Christian Ehrhoff and it was an easy decision

By John Vogl

From the moment he was hired as general manager, Tim Murray has contemplated buying out defenseman Christian Ehrhoff. The compliance buyout process is done.

Murray told The Buffalo News this morning that the defenseman would be bought out, as long as Ehrhoff declined the waiver process. Ehrhoff's agent, Rick Curran, told The News that Ehrhoff has declined and filled out the buyout paperwork.

Ehrhoff had seven years remaining on a 10-year, $40 million contract. He is now an unrestricted free agent.

Ehrhoff's front-loaded contract combined with the salary cap recapture rules created in the last collective bargaining agreement made the defenseman virtually untradeable. In short, money saved against the salary cap on long-term deals would be tacked on to the team's cap if a player retires before the deal is up. Ehrhoff made $10 million in 2011-12 and $8 million in '12-13 but had a cap hit of just $4 million.

It's quite possible the 31-year-old won't finish his deal, which runs until 2021, and the Sabres' would be punished with a cap penalty. A breakdown of the penalies, via, is available here.

The compliance buyout means Ehrhoff is wiped completely from the Sabres' books.

"Since I got here we’ve talked about this," Murray, who was hired in January, told The News this morning in Buffalo Niagara International Airport. "We’ve talked about his contract. We’ve talked about the repercussions of the contract with the penalties that the league has put on it. It’s been an ongoing discussion."

Continue reading "Tim Murray to Buffalo News: Sabres buy out Christian Ehrhoff and it was an easy decision" »

Audio: Longtime NHLer Claude Lemieux is glad son Brendan gets to carve his own path with Sabres

By John Vogl

PHILADELPHIA -- Claude Lemieux brings about plenty of emotions. He's a beloved winner in Colorado and New Jersey. He's absolutely despised in Detroit and several other cities. It would have been tough for his son Brendan to carve his own path in any of those emotion-filled towns.

That's why Claude is happy the Sabres chose Brendan with the first pick of the second round today. Hear him talk about it below.

Must listen: Sabres' Lemieux talks about getting snubbed in first round, joining Buffalo

By John Vogl

PHILADELPHIA -- The Sabres have a dressing room full of quiet guys who don't carry much swagger. That has changed.

The Sabres selected Brendan Lemieux with the first pick of the second round this morning, and the son of longtime NHLer Claude Lemieux made it clear he was unhappy with the teams that passed him over in the first round.

"They gave one of the more fiery guys in the draft a lot more fire," he said.

It's also pays to be the son of an NHL player. Lemieux says the list of people who lifted his spirits Friday night included Jeremy Roenick, Dale Hawerchuk and ... Wayne Gretzky.

Take a listen to Lemieux.

NHL Draft -- Rounds 2-7

Live Blog NHL Draft -- Rounds 2-7

With three picks in second round, who are the top names left?

By Mike Harrington

PHILADELPHIA -- The Sabres will get back at it Saturday morning at 10, making the first pick of the second round. Buffalo also has picks No. 39 and 49. GM Tim Murray said late Friday night that during his days with Ottawa and Anaheim, he often saw the team's staff spending late Friday musing about a way to get No. 31. Murray admitted he's open to a team overpaying to get the pick from Buffalo.

If the Sabres keep all three seconds, who are the best candidates left that didn't go in round one? In no particular order, here are four interesting names on the board. The first three include links to John Vogl's "Road to the Draft" series.

Continue reading "With three picks in second round, who are the top names left?" »

Audio: Sabres GM Tim Murray wraps up Day One of the NHL Draft

By John Vogl

PHILADELPHIA -- Tim Murray had made plenty of noise about adding another first-round selection, but Sam Reinhart was the only player taken by Buffalo at No. 2 overall. The Sabres have seven more picks Saturday, including the enviable top spot in the second round. They have two other second-rounders, plus one each in the third, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds.

“It’s a new start of the draft,” Murray said. “I remember some nights that we went back to our suites and talked about we had to get 31. Hopefully, somebody has somebody on the board and they’re willing to overpay. That’d be great.”

Trade activity was relatively light on the opening day – the biggest deals featured Vancouver sending Ryan Kesler to Anaheim and Pittsburgh shipping James Neal to Nashville – possibly because the cost was high.

“I offered three seconds to seven teams for one first,” said Murray, who was turned down along with all those teams rumored to want the No. 1 overall selection. “It was stupid because you hear so many rumors. ... At some point you just sit down and say, ‘Whatever happens, happens.’”

Tim Murray

Sabres finish first round with just one draft pick, but they got their man in Sam Reinhart

NHL Draft Hockey_Naso
Tim Murray and Terry Pegula join Sam Reinhart on stage. (Associated Press)


By John Vogl

PHILADELPHIA – Sam Reinhart, the newest member of the Buffalo Sabres, had an opportunity last month that was afforded to just one draft-eligible player. The center practiced with Canada’s world championship team in Switzerland and played in an exhibition.

Reinhart chatted often with two players on Team Canada, Cody Hodgson and Tyler Myers. They talked about Buffalo and what Reinhart would look like in a Sabres uniform.

They know now. Reinhart slipped on the Sabres’ sweater Friday night after the team selected him with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.

“I’ve certainly visualized myself in this uniform, and I’m just thrilled and ecstatic to really make an impact there and go to Buffalo for the first time,” Reinhart said in Wells Fargo Center. “I’m very excited and I’m very motivated to step in the league next year with a young team that’s developed very well and to make an impact.”

Buffalo hasn’t promised the 18-year-old center a roster spot, but he clearly believes he’ll earn one. For a team lacking in talent, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him on opening night.

Continue reading "Sabres finish first round with just one draft pick, but they got their man in Sam Reinhart" »

Audio: Sabres draft pick Sam Reinhart ready to join Buffalo next season

By John Vogl

PHILADELPHIA -- Sam Reinhart put on a Sabres jersey tonight, just like he'd been envisioning. He has no plans to take it off.

The center, selected second overall by Buffalo in the NHL Draft, sounded confident he will play for the Sabres next season. He said he knows a spot won't simply be given to him, but think he's ready to earn one.

To hear Reinhart's inaugural news conference as a member of the Sabres, click the audio file below.

Sabres select Sam Reinhart with their first pick in the NHL Draft

By John Vogl

PHILADELPHIA – The Sabres need a dramatic influx of forward talent in their organization. They took a big step tonight by selecting Sam Reinhart with the second overall pick in the NHL Draft.

 Reinhart, the third-ranked prospect according to NHL Central Scouting, is a levelheaded center who has uncanny hockey sense. He’s a playmaker who can score, something that is lacking in Buffalo.

“My hockey sense is up there,” Reinhart said. “At this age, I think that’s the most important thing to have. Everything else in my game I’ve been working on, and I’m going to continue to work on that. I think that’s going to improve my game that much more.”

Reinhart totaled 28, 35 and 36 goals during his last three seasons with Kootenay of the Western Hockey League, and he’s racked up 254 points in 203 junior games. He set career highs with 69 assists and 105 points in 60 games this year. He followed that with six goals and 23 points in 13 playoff games.

Reinhart fully believes he’s ready to step right into the NHL. A recent taste of the professional life gave him additional confidence.

Hockey Canada invited the 18-year-old to participate in its world championship camp last month in Switzerland. He skated alongside NHL players such as Buffalo’s Cody Hodgson, Toronto’s Nazem Kadri and Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau, and Reinhart felt he belonged.

“I would say going up to Switzerland for a few days and playing and practicing with professional guys has set me apart in my confidence level going in,” said Reinhart, who dressed in an exhibition game against the Swiss. “I feel prepared now, and it only motivated me to get more prepared. It was pretty amazing to see how I handled Practice One compared to Practice Three and really picked up the pace and felt comfortable pretty quick.”

Live updates: The News' Vogl & Harrington at NHL Draft

Live Blog Live: NHL draft

Sabres' Murray talking with agents about free agency, including reps for Ott, Moulson (with POLL)

By John Vogl

PHILADELPHIA -- While the NHL Draft is at the forefront, this year's selection show coincides with the free agency discussion period. General managers and agents can discuss the broad parameters of contracts for this year's crop of unrestricted free agents. It allows both sides to get a jump on the July 1 signing frenzy.

While Buffalo isn't expected to make a splash in free agency, GM Tim Murray has been taking advantage of the discussion time.

"I had meetings with agents noon till 7 yesterday, so I think I’m doing what everyone else is doing," Murray said today. "It’s no different. It’s just talking in generalities, ‘Would you have interest in our client?’ We’ll find out on July 1."

Continue reading "Sabres' Murray talking with agents about free agency, including reps for Ott, Moulson (with POLL)" »

At least for '15, last-place team won't draft below No. 2, but Murray is unhappy lottery rules appear to be changing

By Mike Harrington

PHILADELPHIA -- Tim Murray expects the NHL Players Association to rubber-stamp proposed changes to the draft lottery when it meets in a couple weeks, so he's moving forward as if the rules have shifted in the middle of the game. And he's not happy.

According to Murray, the proposed compression of odds means the team with the worst record will have a 19 or 20 percent chance of getting the top pick, rather than 25 percent. At least for 2015, that team will only fall one spot if it doesn't win the No. 1 pick. But starting in 2016, the team with the worst record could conceivably pick as low as fourth.

(Translation: If Sabres finish last next season and lose the lottery, just as they did this year, they would still get the consolation prize of American standout Jack Eichel if they don't land Connor McDavid)

"Greedily I’m upset because I think we have more of a chance of next season being one of the lower teams, which I don’t like, but it’s just reality and I look at it that way," Murray said today during his draft-day meeting with reporters at Le Meridien, the Sabres' headquarters hotel here.

Continue reading "At least for '15, last-place team won't draft below No. 2, but Murray is unhappy lottery rules appear to be changing" »

Sabres' Murray eager to make deals, but tire kicking has been flat

By John Vogl

PHILADELPHIA -- Tim Murray has talked, talked and talked some more to other NHL general managers about trades leading up to the draft tonight. So far, the talk has gone nowhere.

He really hopes that will change.

"I actually said the amount of talking that we’ve done in the last three weeks, for it to come down to this and look like we might not do anything, I don’t know if it’s disappointing or …," the Sabres' GM said today. "I shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve been around this a long time, but it’s quiet. I think a lot of people, including myself, did a lot of tire kicking. I thought I did more than tire kicking, but I said there must be a blockbuster going on because nobody’s reaching out to us anymore."

Continue reading "Sabres' Murray eager to make deals, but tire kicking has been flat" »

AUDIO: Sabres GM Tim Murray gives update on NHL Draft, free agency, lottery process

By John Vogl

PHILADELPHIA -- Sabres GM Tim Murray met with the media late this morning to give an update on the draft, free agency and the proposed changes to the lottery. The full audio is below.

Tim Murray

Here are the highlights via twitter:

Continue reading "AUDIO: Sabres GM Tim Murray gives update on NHL Draft, free agency, lottery process" »

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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 |

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 |

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 |