'The Sabres stand to lose only two players to free agency, veteran defensemen Alexei Zhitnik and James Patrick. Despite offers from the Sabres to re-sign him, Zhitnik had previously expressed an interest to test free agency. Patrick completed his 21st season and sixth in Buffalo, and hopes to re-sign with the Sabres. His future, however, is uncertain because of a potential labor dispute that could disrupt the start or all of next season.'
'And in the long run he's doing it for the right team. The Sabres have struggled the past few years and their depth on the back end has dwindled, particularly after trading veteran Rhett Warrener and former first-round pick Keith Ballard in a deal to acquire forward Chris Drury last summer. Couple that with the fact that the youngest prospect in the Sabres' system is a 20-year-old and things look good for Funk.'
'Connolly gets a ten percent raise from the 1.24-million dollars he made last season. Since he played less than 60 games last season, it's a two way deal. If he's sent to Rochester, the centerman would have to clear NHL waivers.'
Players that were extended qualifying offers and do not have arbitration rights have until July 15th to accept the offer extended to them by the Sabres. If a player rejects the qualifying offer and doesn’t have arbitration rights, the Sabres retain that player’s rights and the player and team can negotiate a new contract.
“(Michael) Funk, he’s a big kid. He’s a raw-boned kid. He has the ability to put on a lot of weight," stated Regier. "I think he’s around 200 right now and he can easily play at 220. He has very good mobility for his age. For his lack of experience, he skates well.”
'Kaleta is a RW who scored 14 goals and 14 assists with Peterborough in the OHL. He patterns his game just like Peca, never turns down the hit.'
HSBC Arena was buzzing with excitement on Saturday but not only for the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. Hundreds of fans from the Western New York and Southern Ontario areas flocked to downtown Buffalo for the Sabres first-ever Draft Party and the largest sale in the Sabres’ store history.
General Manager Darcy Regier stated earlier in the week that the team was looking to acquire a young defenseman with their first overall selection. When it was the Sabres' pick, the organization could not pass up University of North Dakota right wing Drew Stafford.
'"It's a dream come true," Kaleta said. "I grew up my whole life idolizing the Sabres and watching them."'
'"He's on the fence," said Steve Bartlett, the Rochester-based player representative who is assisting the Vaneks. "I think he would certainly look at the next challenge."'
'Stafford won a gold medal with the US at the World Junior Championships, playing on the fourth line. He's a very good skater, and at #13 the Sabres went away from that plan to take defense and took the best player on the board.'
'''I don't think it's sunk in yet,'' said Kaleta, a native of Angola, N.Y. ''I'm still in awe.'''
When everybody started sliding, we thought that we might get him at 14th pick, GM Kevin Lowe said. As soon as Minny took Thelen …
'"Ideally, all things being equal, the preference might have been to have a defenseman, but nobody thought Stafford would be there," Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier said. "It was too good to pass up."'
'Neither Funk nor Sekera will play professionally for at least one year, probably more. Both are expected to play junior hockey next season. Funk won't reach voting age until August. Sekera turned 18 this month.'