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Teams going slow on buyout front, Bruins tell tough guy Thornton he won't be re-signed

By Mike Harrington

There's only one player on waivers in the NHL today, with TSN's Bob McKenzie reporting it's Dallas defenseman Aaron Rome. That means the Sabres and others are not immediately acting on their compliance buyouts, with most observers still fully expecting the Sabres to buy out winger Ville Leino sooner rather than later. Dallas will buy out the final year of Rome's $1.5 million deal.

The compliance buyout period, where players are given a check to essentially go away and no longer count on their team's cap, ends June 30. You have to be on waivers before you can be bought out but waivers are obviously a technicality in Leino's case because no team in the NHL would pick up his bloated contact, which has a cap hit of $4.5 million for each of the next three seasons.

The Sabres, however, have to at least be giving some consideration to a regular buyout of Leino, which would see them retain a portion of his cap hit to help their efforts to reach the cap floor for next season. John Vogl discussed the implications of both versions of a Leino buyout at this post last week, and a regular buyout would see some Leino money on the Sabres' cap through the 2019-20 season.

Elsewhere, the Boston Bruins have told tough guy Shawn Thornton that they will not be re-signing him and will be letting him head into free agency. Thornton spent the last seven years in Boston, posting career-highs of 10 goals and 20 points during the Bruins' 2010-11 Stanley Cup season.

Speaking to BostonBruins.com late this afternoon, GM Peter Chiarelli spoke wistfully of Thornton when he said, "He was here from almost the beginning and I told him he was one of the most significant acquisitions that we made. ... He was able to form one-third of maybe the best fourth line in hockey for the longest time."

Thornton, Gregory Campbell and former Sabre Daniel Paille formed that fourth line that helped Boston win its Cup in 2011. But he suffered a concussion in a beatdown from John Scott in January, 2013, and hasn't been much of a factor since.

In addition, he served a 15-game suspension last season for his attack on Pittsburgh's Brooks Oprik and was fined during the playoffs for spraying Montreal's P.K. Subban with water while sitting on the Bruins' bench.

One of the big takeaways from the Stanley Cup final is how important it is for teams to have four real lines. Both the Kings and Rangers did, with the role of pugilists like Thornton and Scott, who doesn't figure into the Sabres' plans, seemingly shrinking ever more on the NHL landscape. Thornton turns 37 in July, and this could be it for his career.

On Lucic and handshakes: Respect the game when the series ends

By Mike Harrington

I've spent all day seeing blogs and Twitter absolutely blow up over whatever happened between Milan Lucic and the Canadiens in the handshake line after Game Seven Wednesday night in Boston. It was chronicled here earlier today by John Vogl -- complete with the key video evidence.

To me, the post-series handshake line is one of hockey's great traditions that sets the game apart. There are those I usually respect who say it's a dinosaur and the worst tradition in hockey. They are wrong. Losing graciously is a good message to send. And, frankly, so is winning graciously. (The Canadiens could use a few lessons in that as well, and both teams took some heat in this solid column about the aftermath from CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty.)

For Lucic to carp that "It’s said on the ice, so it’ll stay on the ice" is ridiculous. His league obviously doesn't agree. NHL.com has been putting microphones on players in the handshake line this postseason!

Here's Daniel Briere last night, with a quick tap from Lucic but a big hug for former Sabres teammate Daniel Paille:

Here's Patrick Kane after scoring the series-winning overtime goal Tuesday in Minnesota. Obviously, he's happy and has nice things to say to his opponents. But look at how the Wild players, including Jason Pominville and Cody McCormick, respond in kind.

That is how it's supposed to go. That's how it goes for virtually every player on virtually every team. Milan Lucic is not bigger than the game. You win, you shake hands. You lose, you shake hands. You don't like it? Too bad. Respect your sport. But I guess that's a lot to ask for a guy who specializes in sticks to the groin when the stripes aren't paying attention.

The final say on Lucic? For old times' sake, let's let Ryan Miller have at it:

Morning (yep) musings/links from Vancouver and around the NHL

By Mike Harrington

VANCOUVER -- Greetings from what has to be about the most scenic place on the Sabres' North American stops. Never been here before. Completely blown away.  A reminder that tonight's game in Rogers Arena is a 5 p.m.  local time start (8 p.m. in Buffalo), so there is no morning skate today.

The Sabres have played 111 meetings with their 1970 expansion cousins and have 111 points -- going 46-46-19.  Odd.  The Sabres' last game here was a 5-3 win over March 3, 2012. With a win tonight, the Sabres would have consecutive wins in Vancouver for the first time since they won three in a row from Oct. 9, 1996 to March 16, 2000. Tonight is former Canuck Cody Hodgson's 200th NHL game.

Read today's game preview on BC native Nathan Lieuwen starting against his once-favorite team.

Read today's Sabres notebook on the Canucks' desperation

Here's a quick Vancouver Sun preview, with some neat Canucks notes and quotes.

In other NHL news:

---Sure seems like the Sabres sent the Edmonton Oilers for a loop by winning in Rexall Place. The Oil was 10-4-3 in its previous 17 before losing to Buffalo, and then had a complete meltdown last night in an 8-1 loss to Calgary.

Star Taylor Hall and coach Dallas Eakins had an on-bench spat caught by CBC cameras after a frustrated Hall tossed a water bottle and it squirted on to Eakins. And a fan threw an Oilers jersey on the ice, prompting an enraged Edmonton native and goaltender Ben Scrivens to fling it back in the crowd with his stick. See a vine of Scrivens' jersey toss at this Edmonton Journal link.

Read more about the meltdown in the Edmonton Sun.

Continue reading "Morning (yep) musings/links from Vancouver and around the NHL" »

Luongo, Bryzgalov, MacDonald, Penner dealt on wild deadline eve

By Mike Harrington

TAMPA, Fla. -- So who gave NHL GMs the memo that the trade deadline was today? Hey guys, it's tomorrow at 3 p.m. Sure couldn't tell by what's gone down the last couple of hours or so.

First off, nothing from the Sabres as of 5 p.m. Matt Moulson is still with them. So is Jaroslav Halak and a host of others who could be on the block. A big one just went down as Vancouver sent Roberto Luongo back to Florida for center Shawn Matthias and goalie Jacob Markstrom. 

The Panthers, who are in Boston tonight, have said they're going to allow GM Dale Tallon to spend money under new owners Vinnie Viola and Doug Cifu. Looks like they are. In addition to Luongo, they also signed ex-Sabre Brad Boyes to a two-year contract extension worth $2.625 million per season.

When is their next game? Yep. Friday night at BB&T Center in Sunrise against the Sabres. Luongo might actually get some people in seats, something I've never seen at a game there. 

Luongo, who is under contract through the 2021-22 season, previously spent five years in Florida. And he brilliantly commented on the trade from his ultra-popular Twitter feed @Strombone1 

 

Halak's most likely target team appeared to disappear today when the Minnesota Wild got Ilya Bryzgalov from Edmonton for a fourth-round pick, ending rumors that Martin Brodeur was going to Minnesota. So wither Halak? Washington still seems like a good bet.

The most active team so far today is Anaheim. The Ducks are first overall with 91 points but they didn't stand pat. They sent Dustin Penner to Washington for a fourth-round pick and goalie Viktor Fasth to Edmonton for two picks (a fifth in '14 and a third in '15), then got defenseman Stephane Robidas from Dallas for a conditional fourth-round pick.

The Islanders sent defenseman Andrew MacDonald for center Matt Mangene, a third-round pick this year and a second-rounder next year. The Islanders are still working on a Thomas Vanek trade with Anaheim and Los Angeles interested and growing speculation that Boston is trying to get a player who routinely riddled them when he played with the Sabres.

Video/audio: Sabres stun Bruins with tying goal, overtime winner

By John Vogl

The few thousand folks who stuck around until the end were rewarded tonight. They paid the Sabres back in applause.

Buffalo's Matt Moulson scored with 52.3 seconds left to tie the game, and Matt D'Agostini scored the winner on a breakaway 22 seconds into overtime as the Sabres stunned Boston, 5-4.

Continue reading "Video/audio: Sabres stun Bruins with tying goal, overtime winner" »

Bruins' Team Canada connection still has Golden glow

Canada bench
Boston coach Claude Julien, second from left, joins Mike Babcock and Lindy Ruff in celebrating Canada's gold medal Sunday in Sochi (Getty Images).


By Mike Harrington

Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien is a little tired. So are Bruins forwards Patrice Bergeron (Canada) and Loui Eriksson (Sweden), who joined Julien as part of Sunday's gold medal game at the Sochi Olympics. The Bs are in town for their first post-Olympic game tonight against the Sabres but the gold-medal glow is still on Julien, one of Mike Babcock's assistants, and Bergeron in the wake of Canada's 3-0 win over the Swedes in the finale.

Team Canada, of course, blanked Team USA, 1-0, in the semifinals and allowed just three goals the whole tournament.

"You got 20 elite players and they're all committed to playing hard," Julien said today. "The fact we had really good numbers coming back, we had set from the get-go in the summer that we wanted players that could play both ends of the ice and that's what we got. Even though we didn't score as much as we would have liked to, the scoring chances were there. We created a lot.

"Maybe the finish was a bit of a challenge for whatever reason but at the same time, we played so well defensively that we never gave other teams much of a chance to score some goals. There was an unbelievable commitment from our whole group to do it right."

Was the finale The Perfect Game, like so many international hockey experts have called it?

"I would say the last two games were close to that," Bergeron said. "It was a great example of everyone buying in and just playing, sticking to the system, to do what the coaches asked us to play and we got the result. Every shift you could see guys back-pressuring like there was no tomorrow. The Ds were stepping up. We were really closing up and not giving up much time and it gave us the success that we got."

"It was a great experience from day one to the last day," Bergeron added. "It was something very special, something I'll never forget. I'm very happy and proud of the way we've all done it."

Bettman upholds 15-game ban for Bruins' Thornton

By Mike Harrington

Merry Christmas Eve from Gary Bettman to Shawn Thornton: The NHL commissioner has upheld the 15-game suspension to the Boston tough guy for his Dec. 7 attack on Pittsburgh's Brooks Orpik.

You can go to this link to peruse Bettman's entire 12-page ruling and it makes for some interesting reading. My biggest take from it comes from pages 9-10-11 -- Bettman says Thornton's clean record saves him from an even longer suspension, and not the 10-12-game ban the players union was seeking.

Among other plays, Bettman compared the ugly incident to Dale Hunter's 21-game suspension in 1993 and the 18-month bad Todd Bertuzzi got for attacking Steve Moore in 2004. Thornton, if he wishes, has one week to appeal Bettman's ruling to a neutral arbitrator. 

Vote for the three stars

Stars plan sitdown with Seguin over social media snafus

Tyler_Cup_01 copy-1
Tyler Seguin hoists the Stanley Cup in his hometown of Brampton, Ont., in 2011 (Getty Images)

 By Mike Harrington

Old friend Lindy Ruff certainly felt like his new team acquired a No. 1 center for many years Friday when the Dallas Stars landed Tyler Seguin in a seven-player deal with the Boston Bruins. But, as the playoffs went on, Seguin's poor play in Boston was surrounded by murmurs of his party animal lifestyle and that was chronicled in this Boston Herald story.

Seguin's mother ripped the Bruins in a Toronto Star story last week, saying the team leaked some of the information to discredit Seguin. One problem? Dad admitted to the Star that kiddo is in fact prone to party. 

So what did Seguin allegedly do to commemorate his trade? Stage a big rave at his Cape Cod pad with friends. On Saturday, he then tweeted (since deleted) "Only steers and queers in Texas, and I’m not a cow.” Early Sunday afternoon, Seguin tweeted he was taking down his Twitter account due to hackers. Uh-huh. 

(4 p.m. update: The Stars have issued a statement denouncing the tweet, saying in part: "We've addressed the issue directly with Tyler and we'll continue to work on educating our players regarding the importance of their conduct on all forms of social media.")

All this can't sit well with Ruff and especially new Stars GM Jim Nill, who just sent valuable veteran Loui Eriksson to Boston as the key piece for Seguin. According to Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News, Nill said today that Seguin is scheduled in Dallas on Monday and they will be having a heart-to-heart about social media and other things off the ice.

"My problem with social media is you just don’t know how much of it is true,” Nill said. “I think, as a society, we are trained to believe 100 percent of it is true, and that’s obviously not the case. It’s difficult to validate how things might happen, whether someone was truly hacked, or just what might have happened. I can’t go off hearsay, I need to ask questions.”

Nill will ask plenty Monday and the Dallas media is scheduled to ask Seguin some more Tuesday. That figures to be interesting.

Evening updates: Bruins sign Iginla, Wild nabs Pens' Cooke

By Mike Harrington

The Boston Bruins thought they had Jarome Iginla at the trade deadline. They didn't, as the veteran went to Pittsburgh at the last minute. But with Nathan Horton gone today to Columbus, the Bruins had another opening on the wing and this time they got their man.

Iginla left the Penguins and signed with the Bruins Friday night as the dollars kept flying during NHL free agency. According to ESPN.com and TSN, it's a one-year contract with a $1.8 million base salary that features performance bonuses that could take Iginla up to $6 million. The low base salary gives the Bruins more wriggle room in their need to sign goaltender Tuukka Rask to a long-term deal.

The evening's other big name moving also left Pittsburgh, as rugged winger Matt Cooke signed a three-year, $7.5 million deal with Minnesota. Memo to Thomas Vanek: If you're thinking about returning to your collegiate home state and signing with the Wild as a free agent next summer, the Wild would likely have to make room for you by dumping either/or of Dany Heatley or old friend Jason Pominville. 

The top unsigned names as of this writing? Among skaters, it's bought-out Toronto center Mikhail Grabovski, old friends Derek Roy of Vancouver and Brad Boyes of the Islanders, the Detroit duo of Damien Brunner and Dan Clearly -- either of whom would look good in Buffalo Blue and gold -- and Vancouver's Mason Raymond.

Among goaltenders, if you dare, you can still sign Tim Thomas, Ilyz Bryzgalov, Jose Theodore or Johan Hedberg. Good luck there.

A little more than 'he shoots, he scores' on Bruins' winner

By Mike Harrington

This one is making the rounds this afternoon, courtesy of NESN with a boost from CBS Sports' Eye on Hockey blog. We've seen a couple of these before, but this one is even more melodramatic.

NESN has a tiny camera in its TD Garden booth trained on wacko Bruins play-by-play guy Jack Edwards, and it captured this over-the-top reaction from Edwards to Patrice Bergeron's overtime goal in Game Seven against the Leafs Monday night.

Close your eyes and listen and it's actually a pretty good call but Edwards, clearly knowing the camera is there, added some major mustard to his hot dogging too.

Pondering the playoffs: Where have all the long overtimes gone?

By Mike Harrington

TORONTO -- We're on hand at the Air Canada Centre for Game Six of the Leafs-Bruins series (tonight at 7:30) and I'm wondering if we're way-way-way overdue for one of those into-the-night marathon playoff games that people talk about for a long time.

Last night's Pittsburgh-Islanders game was the 16th overtime contest of the first round -- tying the record for a round set last year. Former East Amherst product Brooks Orpik scored the game winner at 7:48 and you can watch the video above.

But none of the 16 games have gone past the first OT. Only two have gone past 15 minutes and just five have gone past 10 minutes (Boston's David Krejci scored at 13:06 to win Game Four of this series here on Wednesday night. Five have lasted less than three minutes. 

The average in total is just a shade over eight minutes. Sure, there's some great players on the ice but I can say no superstar has scored an OT goal yet. I point to bad goaltending and there's been plenty of it in the postseason so far. We'll see what happens here tonight, and whether Tuukka Rask and James Reimer can stretch a tie game deep into the night.

Vanek on teams' stick salute: 'It was just to appreciate the people who came'

Teams
The teams salute the TD Garden crowd after the shootout's conclusion. (Getty Images)

By Mike Harrington

The stirring national anthem sung by the entire TD Garden crowd and the postgame, two-team stick salute to the fans seem to be the most lasting images from last night's amazing game in Boston.

Home teams routinely salute their fans after a win and the Bruins were no doubt going to do that last night, win or lose. How did the Sabres get involved? Most Boston players last night were crediting Thomas Vanek.

Vanek, along with alternate captains Steve Ott and Drew Stafford, broached the idea at the morning skate with team trainers, who took it to the Boston side. Vanek and Boston captain Zdeno Chara then met on the ice at the start of pregame warmup to finalize the plans.

"Even though they play in that city, it doesn't matter where you're from," Vanek said after today's brief practice in Amherst. "Buffalo, my case Europe or whatever. Everyone gets affected by it.

"We didn't think about the publicity it's getting. For us, it was just to appreciate the people who came. The atmosphere was unbelievable. It's a few hours away from something you have to not think about. It was good for everyone, a good few hours."

Continue reading "Vanek on teams' stick salute: 'It was just to appreciate the people who came'" »

Spin around the Web: World reacts to Sabres-Bruins game

Rene
Accompanied by the Boston Fire Departrment Honor Guard, Rene Rancourt kicks off the emotional national anthem. (Getty Images)


By Mike Harrington

 

If you haven't already done so, be sure to check John Vogl's post from earlier this morning with links to his reports from last night's game in Boston and videos of all the emotional moments surrounding the Sabres' shootout win.

Taking a quick spin around the Web today, I found several other stories that are good reads.

---In the Boston Globe, Buffalo booster and Wegmans lover Kevin Paul Dupont (whose wife is a WNYer) penned a terrific lead column on the scene. Wrote Dupont. "It was a night to remember, a hope to hold dear, only some 48 hours after the afternoon we all wish could be chased from memory."

---Anthem singer Rene Rancourt, a legend at the old and new Garden for 35 years, said in an interview this morning on WEEI Radio in Boston, that the anthem will rate as the most memorable one of his career. Bruins officials suggested the crowd-led anthem in part because Rancourt said he was concerned he wouldn't be able to sing the song all the way due to his emotions. But he was wondering if the crowd would sing for him. No issues. 

"It was wonderful," Rancourt said. "The sound was carrying me, lifting me up in the room. It was just something indescribable."

Continue reading "Spin around the Web: World reacts to Sabres-Bruins game" »

A look at the sights and sounds of Sabres-Bruins in Boston

By John Vogl

The Sabres will return to practice today, and their focus will be on Friday's season-altering matchup with the New York Rangers, the team they're chasing for the playoffs. Before that, it's worth reliving some of the Sabres' emotional visit to Boston on Wednesday for the first sporting event in the town since Monday's marathon bombing.

Fans and players chose to embrace the sporting diversion rather than worry about another act of terror.

“You can’t live in fear,” said 27-year-old Jason Baylor of Arcade, who traveled to Boston. “I don’t worry about the bombing. I go about my everyday life like I normally would.”

Continue reading "A look at the sights and sounds of Sabres-Bruins in Boston" »

Bruins, Sabres hope to ease pain in Boston; Miller to return to Buffalo net

By John Vogl

BOSTON -- The pain caused by the Boston Marathon explosions will linger for awhile. The Sabres and Bruins hope they can ease it for a couple of hours.

The teams will face off in TD Garden tonight in Boston's first sporting event since the act of terror that marred Monday's race. The Bruins are expected to memorialize the three people who died and 176 who were wounded when a pair of bombs exploded near the finish line of the legendary marathon.

"I’m sure it will be full of emotions after obviously what happened on Monday," Bruins forward Chris Kelly said after the morning skate. "Your thoughts and prayers go out to everyone that was affected, and hopefully we can go out and play hard for the city of Boston.

Continue reading "Bruins, Sabres hope to ease pain in Boston; Miller to return to Buffalo net" »

Bruins practice with 'heavy hearts' for visit by Sabres

Interviews from the Bruins' dressing room Tuesday by ESPNBoston.com

By Mike Harrington

The Boston Bruins practiced as normal today in Wilmington, Mass., for their game against the Sabres Wednesday night

"It was one of those days you practice with heavy hearts," said coach Claude Julien. "Obviously, we have a job to do and we still have to do our job, but our guys are proud of this city they represent, Boston, and as much as it was hard to really go out there today and give your all, I think our guys did a good job. Practice is over and our thoughts are back with those people affected by it."

Click here to read the full report by ESPNBoston.com

Sabres planning for Boston trip; Grigorenko on ice

By Mike Harrington

A quick Sabres update from First Niagara Center: Practice has opened as scheduled at 10:30 a.m., the normal time when the team is planning a flight. The plane to Boston is supposed to leave at 3 p.m. and there is no indication of any change in the schedule for tomorrow's game against the Bruins at 7:30 in TD Garden in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings.

In roster news, Mikhail Grigorenko is on the ice at practice today but there is no decision yet from the Sabres whether he will be going to Boston or is simply here working out and getting ready to go to Rochester.

More updates, of course, after practice is complete.

NHL postpones Bruins-Sens game in wake of Marathon explosion; Sabres scheduled to leave for Boston tomorrow, play on Wednesday

By Mike Harrington

In the wake of the explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon course, the NHL has announced the postponement of tonight's game between the Ottawa Senators and Boston Bruins at TD Garden. There is no word on a makeup date for the game.

"The National Hockey League wishes to express its sympathy to all affected by the tragic events that took place in Boston earlier this afternoon," the league said in its official release.

The Sabres are scheduled to leave for Boston on a 3 p.m. flight Tuesday afternoon and are slated to play the Bruins Wednesday night at 7:30  The Sabres are scheduled to stay at their normal Boston hotel, the Ritz-Carlton by the Boston Common. It is about 1 3/4 miles from the explosion site on Boylston Street.

Continue reading "NHL postpones Bruins-Sens game in wake of Marathon explosion; Sabres scheduled to leave for Boston tomorrow, play on Wednesday" »

Postgame audio: Lots of As to give for big comeback against Bs

Myers
Tyler Myers celebrates his third-period goal. (Harry Scull Jr/Buffalo News)


By Mike Harrington

It was one of those nights. 

The Sabres were decent in the first period (albeit unable to get the puck out of their zone for the first 82 seconds). They were horrific in the second, getting richly deserved boos on their way off the ice in a 2-1 hole that would have been about 6-1 or 7-1 were it not for Ryan Miller. 

Something pretty darn interesting must have gone on in that dressing room in the second intermission. Tyler Myers and Lindy Ruff both admitted there was plenty of anger and the third period that followed was easily this club's best of the year. 

When the 4-2 win over the Boston Bruins was complete, Drew Stafford (the elephant finally off his back after scoring his first goal), greeted the media in an outlandish fur coat with Sabres logo on the back. He then unleashed this gem as reporters encircled him: "Guys, I want to thank Mike Harrington for letting me borrow his coat."

Hey man, whatever works. 

Continue reading "Postgame audio: Lots of As to give for big comeback against Bs" »

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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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