Michael Grier, Paul Gaustad

Rumors of Buffalo Sabres sale still strong and why it could be a great thing for the team

Usually, when rumors of the sale of a small market team surface, it’s usually seen as bad news or neutral. Yet in the case of the rumors of wealthy person (and hockey fan) Terry Pegula potentially buying the Buffalo Sabres, many think that the cost conscious club could really benefit from Pegula’s deep pockets and considerably deep passion for pucks.

Most recently, Sabres management tried to shoot down the rumors, but if you believe Ken Campbell of the Hockey News, it’s more a matter of semantics than anything else.

Campbell writes that an announcement of the team sale is expected to happen “sometime in late December or early January.” He wrote that Gary Bettman may even introduce Pegula to the NHL ownership group when they meet during the board of governors meetings on December 6 and 7.

The fact that the Buffalo Sabres are throwing cold water on a THN.com report that billionaire Terrence Pegula has signed a letter of intent to purchase the Buffalo Sabres for $150 million could mean a number of things.

Most likely, it means the $150 million figure is not exact, but make no mistake, Pegula wants the Sabres and the purchase price will be in that range, perhaps even lower than $150 million. Does it mean he will definitely buy the team? No, he has simply signed an intention to purchase, which means he still has an out, but the team cannot be sold to anyone else.

As Campbell wrote and Joe discussed before, Pegula’s presence as an owner could indeed be a great thing for the Sabres. While it’s easy to note that Chris Drury and Daniel Briere received lavish contracts – deals that only Briere seems occasionally capable of justifying – the fact of the matter is that Buffalo had a great thing going in those early post-lockout years and currently cannot seem to surround gifted goalie Ryan Miller with sufficient talent. Free agency isn’t the only way to build a team, but having someone like Pegula who would likely be willing to spend big bucks on high-end talent could be huge for the team and fans alike.

So what does all this mean? It can be nothing but good news for the Sabres. That’s because Pegula is a hockey guy through and through and with a net worth of about $3 billion – he’s the 110th richest man in the United States – has very deep pockets. His wife is from a suburb of nearby Rochester and he lived in Orchard Park for a brief period.

He and his wife, Kim, also recently donated $88 million to Penn State University to help build an arena on campus and create Division I hockey programs for both men and women. A native of Carbondale, Pa., Pegula apparently became hooked on hockey watching the Broad Street Bullies in the 1970s. He has also coached his son’s minor hockey team.

“When I helped coach my son’s team back 22 years ago,” Pegula said when he made the Penn State donation, “my passion grew.”

People often forget Buffalo when they discuss “tortured sports cities,” but think of the professional sports heartbreak their two teams suffered. The Bills lost those four Super Bowls in a variety of soul crushing ways and also endured the improbable “Music City Miracle.” Some Sabres fans still struggle with Brett Hull’s foot in the crease goal and it seems like great eras are cut short left and right, from Dominik Hasek to Pat LaFontaine to the Drury/Briere teams.

Count me among those rooting for this ownership change if it brings about big picture stability – and genuine competitiveness in free agency – for those lovable Sabres. Naturally, we’ll keep you posted on this developing story.

Video: Gaudreau, Ryan, Orlov star in Goals of the Week

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Three stellar individual efforts in our latest offering.

First up, it’s red-hot Ottawa forward Bobby Ryan, with his third-period goal in an eventual OT loss to Detroit. Ryan now has 20 points in 21 games this season, and six in his last five.

Next, it’s Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau, who walked off what was arguably the Flames’ best win of the year — a 2-1 OT victory over the defending champion Blackhawks.

Finally, it’s Caps blueliner Dmitry Orlov, with one of the weirdest-looking goals in recent memory.

From the Washington Post:

“No one knew where the puck was,” defenseman Nate Schmidt said.

“Houdini,” goaltender Braden Holtby said.

“I had no clue,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “I thought it was in the stands. I had no idea.”

The goal was also Orlov’s second of the season, meaning he’s just one shy of matching his career best.

After 20-game absence, Elias to make season debut for Devils

Patrik Elias
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It took a while, but Patrik Elias‘ campaign is ready to get underway.

Elias, who’s yet to play this year because of a knee injury, says he’ll be in the New Jersey lineup tonight when the Devils host the Blue Jackets at Prudential (per The Record).

The 39-year-old’s presence should provide an emotional lift in front of the home crowd.

A lifelong Devil — only Ken Daneyko and Martin Brodeur have appeared in more games — fans may be witnessing Elias’ last year in uniform. It’s fair to suggest he could be on the verge of retirement, given he’s in the last of a three-year, $16.5 million deal and will turn 40 in April.

As for tonight, it’s not yet official who Elias will play with — or how much he’ll play. He did take line rushes with Jacob Josefson and Stefan Matteau at Tuesday’s practice.

After three-game absence, Johnson back for Bolts this week

Carl Gunnarsson, Tyler Johnson
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The Lightning have a busy stretch of the schedule coming up, with three games in the next four nights.

And it sounds like they’ll get a big lineup reinforcement to help them through it.

Per LA Kings Insider — the Kings are in Tampa tonight — Bolts head coach Jon Cooper confirmed that Tyler Johnson will be back in the lineup “at some point” this week, after missing the last three games with an upper-body injury.

Johnson has been out of the lineup since taking a Dave Bolland hit on Nov. 14. The timing of the injury was lousy, especially since Johnson looked to be rounding into form — after a rough October in which he failed to score a goal and had just five points in 12 games, Johnson was playing well in November, with three goals and five points in his first six games.

There’s no denying the Bolts could use Johnson back in the mix.

The club has been ravaged by injury lately and is currently without the services of Ondrej Palat, Jonathan Drouin and Cedric Paquette at forward.

The injuries are a big reason why Tampa is off to a mediocre 10-9-3 start. That said, the team has looked good in each of its last two games — a 2-1 win over the Rangers in a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Final, followed by a 5-0 blowout of the Ducks on Saturday.

As for when Johnson might get back in? The Bolts play tonight at home against L.A., on Friday in Washington, then back at home on Saturday against the Islanders.

Will the Bruins re-sign Loui Eriksson?

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Loui Eriksson, one of the key pieces Boston acquired in the Tyler Seguin trade, is in the last of his six-year, $25.5 million deal and will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

And, at least for now, there doesn’t appear to be much certainty about his future as a Bruin.

“I’ll never, ever comment publicly in regard to individual players and negotiations and such,” B’s GM Don Sweeney told the Boston Herald this week. “Whether (comments) come out from the other side or wherever, they’re not going to come from me.

“He’s a big part of our team and he’s off to a really good start.”

Eriksson is certainly off to a good start — nine goals and 18 points in 20 games, his highest points-per-game average (.90) since coming to Boston, and the second-highest of his career.

He’s also playing nearly 20 minutes per night, enjoying great chemistry playing alongside David Krejci and, after an injury-riddled first year as a Bruin followed by last year’s playoff miss, seems to have really found his groove.

So why the silence on the extension front?

Two weeks ago, Eriksson told the Globe his agent, J.P. Barry, hasn’t had any discussions with Sweeney about re-signing in Boston.

“There’s not much you can really do about it now,” the 30-year-old Swede explained. “I’m trying to focus on playing good and trying to help this team as much as possible. Then we’ll see what happens after this year.”

Obviously, money is a factor.

Looking ahead, Boston’s current cap crunch doesn’t project to get much lighter. The club already has $61 million in salary committed for next season (per War On Ice), and Sweeney has to be mindful of other important contracts on the horizon.

Torey Krug is a restricted free agent at year’s end, and in line for a raise on the $3.4 million he made this season. Brad Marchand will be a UFA following the ’16-17 campaign.

And you’d think Sweeney would want to keep money free to eventually sort out Boston’s defense. The blueline has been an issue this season; it’s also getting old and will likely need an injection of new blood in the near future.

There’s also the question if, should he head to free agency, Eriksson couldn’t be replaced internally. The B’s are flush with young wingers — Jimmy Hayes, Brett Connolly, Seth Griffith, David Pastrnak, Frank Vatrano and Alexander Khokhlachev are all 26 or under — which could make Eriksson expendable.