'William Thomas, who represents the Sabres in bankruptcy court proceedings, said Tuesday that, barring any appeals, the payments out of a $1.6 million account could be made by the end of the month following a recent ruling by Judge Michael Kaplan.'
'The biggest disappointments were left wing Taylor Pyatt and defensemen Brian Campbell and Andy Delmore. Pyatt and Campbell were two youngsters who failed to take the next step. Delmore, a $1 million offseason acquisition, didn't come close to living up to his billing as a premier scoring defenseman and was traded away last month.'
'"The collective bargaining agreement doesn't expire until Sept. 15, so things like qualifying offers have to go out June 30, the arbitration process starts July 15 and continues on through the 15th of August, so really operations will continue like they have in the past," General Manager Darcy Regier said Monday at management's farewell-to-the-season address.'
'Even Don Cherry, who rarely passes out compliments towards anything with a Buffalo before it, says the Sabres are “the team to watch” next season. If there only IS a next season. But even that has a bright side for Tom Golisano. He says he’ll actually lose LESS money if there’s a work stoppage, and when the two sides finally agree to agree, the Sabres will still be in Buffalo and ready to move forward.'
'The restricted free agents are Daniel Briere, J.P. Dumont, Jochen Hecht, Maxim Afinogenov, Mike Grier, Dmitri Kalinin, Taylor Pyatt, Jeff Jillson, Rory Fitzpatrick, Brian Campbell, Henrik Tallinder, Milan Bartovic, Brad Brown, Andrew Peters, Martin Biron and Mika Noronen. All are eligible for arbitration except Noronen, Peters, Bartovic, Pyatt, Tallinder, Campbell, Jillson and Kalinin. The club holds an option on Ales Kotalik.'
'The Sabres need to be more demanding of their young players. They can’t keep waiting on Maxim Afinogenov and Tim Connolly’s potential. Either they produce or they’re gone. Make the decision and live with it.'
'”The team worked so hard and was very intense and they tried their hearts out, you had to admire that. It would’ve been wonderful to make the playoffs this first year, but we didn’t make it. But lack of success, just like success, only lasts for a moment. So now, we’re already onto next year, and we have a lot of things to be concerned about.”'
'''There's disappointment with not making the playoffs, but this job isn't done yet,'' general manager Darcy Regier said. ''It is, I feel, I don't want to say a beginning, but it takes us a long way down the road toward our goal. So there's gratification there.'''
'As for Pyatt, he's another youngster rushed too soon and perhaps expected to do too much. At 6-foot-4 and 227 pounds he's been touted as the next Todd Bertuzzi, but his slow development now is raising unflattering comparisons to Brad Isbister and Chris Gratton.'
'Warm and fuzzy feelings aside, Golisano said he wants to get a better handle on the team's finances. Golisano's game plan is to see the annual deficit decrease by incremental amounts to the point where the team, and its fellow operations, finish each year in the black — or close to it.'
'The Sabres didn't make the playoffs but finish up a successful season with a 37-34-7-4 with 85 points. That's 10 more wins and 13 more points than last season when they were 27-37-10-8. The noted improvement should also be noted because Buffalo played in what many consider to be the hardest division in the NHL. The Northeast Division was the only division to have all five teams above .500 and at least 85 points.'
'But there were so many ways the Sabres could have picked up enough points here and there to avoid an early offseason for an unprecedented third consecutive spring…'.
'He'll turn 41 in two months, might be facing surgery to replace two herniated discs in his neck and probably won't be the most attractive unrestricted free agent on the market given the probability of a lockout that threatens to wipe out the entire 2004-05 season.'
'The Sabres were in playoff mode for the final two months because they accomplished so little in the first three.'
'Both Dagenais goals were stoppable, but don't even think about pointing a purple forefinger at a goaltender when a team is being outshot 24-14 after two periods and 39-27 on the game. From start to finish, there wasn't a helping hand in sight for Noronen – and to his credit, he got his game in order after the Canadiens had taken a 4-1 lead fewer than four minutes into the second period.'