Terry Pegula

Pegula Effect: Sabres fans showing optimism with their wallet

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Things are going pretty well in Buffalo’s corner of the hockey world these days. Ever since fan-turned-awesome-owner Terry Pegula took over the team, the future has looked a little brighter for the Sabres and their fans. At the trade deadline, GM Darcy Regier was a “buyer” for the first time in years as they acquired Brad Boyes and his $4 million contract. After the season, they picked up defensive stalwart Robyn Regehr in a salary dump from the Calgary Flames. The team continued when they went out and traded for the rights for Christian Ehrhoff, then dropped a 10-year contract that shocked people all over North America. To cap it all off on July 1st, the team landed Ville Leino with a 6-year, $27 million contract.

Just how much money have they spent? Let’s put it this way: they’re almost $3 million over the salary cap ceiling. Quite a change from the penny pinching ways of the past, isn’t it?

Predictably, Sabres fans in Buffalo are excited with what they’ve seen during the short Pegula regime. Today, the team announced that fans are showing their excitement with their hard-earned money as well. From the club press release:

“The Buffalo Sabres today announced the team has achieved a record renewal rate of 99% for their 2011-12 season tickets. As a result, season ticket sales have been capped at 15,200 tickets for the 2011-12 season. That total includes 100 new season tickets, which have been sold to members of the Buffalo Sabres Blue & Gold club.

Due to this extraordinary rate of renewal, the supply of tickets for the upcoming season will be much more limited than years past. The demand was so great that the Sabres will – for the first time in franchise history – cap the number of Mini-Packs at 3,500 accounts.

“We anticipate this year’s Mini-Packs will sell out quickly,” said John Sinclair, the VP of Ticket Operations & Services. “Those individuals that are currently members of the Blue & Gold Club will have the first opportunity to purchase tickets, as well as individuals who purchased Mini-Packs last season. At that point, it will move to the general public.”

The 99% renewal rate is a huge number when the rest of the Sabres attendance numbers are taken into account. Last season, they played to a 98.7% capacity rate as they averaged 18,452 fans per game. Buffalo’s home arena has an official capacity of 18,690 people per game (not counting standing-room-only crowds); so they’ve already been packing the place as it was. Twelve teams played to at least 100% capacity last season—the Sabres look to be a shoe-in to join the list next season.

Now that ownership has the Sabres as the hottest ticket in town, the next step is for the players to take care of their end of the deal. Fans will pack the HSBC Arena, but the new players will have to help the team capitalize on the buzz and take the next step in the standings. They have a competitive top 6 up front, a great top 4 on the backend, and an elite goaltender that will give them a chance to win every night. If they can put it all together, the Sabres should be an exciting team to watch next season.

As the Sabres let us know today, there will be plenty of people in the arena to watch it all go down.

Matthews to sit out preseason tilt versus Sabres, as Maple Leafs give him ‘a little break’

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Auston Matthews poses for a portrait after being selected first overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in round one during the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes/Getty Images)
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The Toronto Maple Leafs play the Buffalo Sabres on Friday. But No. 1 overall pick Auston Matthews won’t be in the lineup, according to multiple reports.

“Sooner or later, he’s going to get in, but not tonight,” said assistant coach Jim Hiller, as per the Toronto Sun.

“The lineups are day by day. They (World Cup players such as Matthews, Milan Michalek, Leo Komarov and James van Riemsdyk) went through a solid three weeks. It’s a little break, a little down time. There are tons of games coming. They’ll get a lot of ice time. They’ll get in shortly.”

(The report also notes that Matthews is not dealing with a health issue, which is obviously good news for the Leafs.)

On a night when the No. 2 overall selection Patrik Laine is slated to make his preseason debut for the Winnipeg Jets, fans wishing to see Matthews don a Maple Leafs jersey in his anticipated debut will have to wait.

Matthews played for Team North America at the World Cup held in Toronto. He had two goals and three points in three round robin games, but the young North American team was unable to advance to the semifinal round.

The Maple Leafs play the Montreal Canadiens at home on Sunday.

McLellan: Maroon’s lower-body injury not considered serious

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It appears Patrick Maroon‘s injury from Wednesday’s preseason game against the Vancouver Canucks looked worse than it is.

The Edmonton Oilers forward was in obvious pain immediately after he went hard into the boards from an awkward hit delivered by James Sheppard just past the midway point of the third period. Maroon needed help to the bench and was unable to put much, if any, pressure on his left leg.

He left the game and didn’t return.

Good news, however, from the Oilers: Head coach Todd McLellan told reporters on Friday that the injury — lower body — is not serious, as per the team’s Twitter account.

According to Mark Spector of Sportsnet, the 28-year-old Maroon is expected to be ready for Edmonton’s season opener against the rival Calgary Flames on Oct. 12.

The Oilers acquired Maroon at last season’s trade deadline, a move that certainly added size and an element of grit to their group of forwards.

In 16 games with Edmonton, he scored eight goals and 14 points. In 56 games with Anaheim that same season, he registered only 13 points before the trade.

Patrik Laine to make highly anticipated preseason debut for Jets

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Patrik Laine gives an interview after being selected second by the Winnepeg Jets during round one of the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images)
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Anticipation has been building since the Winnipeg Jets officially took Patrik Laine with the second overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft.

On Friday, Laine, the highly coveted Finnish forward, will make his preseason debut for the Jets when they play the Edmonton Oilers in Winnipeg, as the home fans get the chance to take in the occasion.

The Jets have done a nice job of amassing good young forwards in their organization. Laine, who has the gifts to be a prolific scorer in the NHL, is at the top of that prospect list.

Winnipeg’s roster tonight also includes forward prospects Kyle Connor, Nic Petan and Brandon Tanev, not to mention more NHL experienced forwards like Alex Burmistrov, Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele.

Laine enters this season with high expectations placed on him from fans and media, after coming to the NHL following a standout career in Finland as a teenager. He’s aware of the expectations, but toned down the hype with the usual statements of just playing his game.

“Just be brave on the ice and show everybody I will earn my spot on the team,” he told reporters.

Laine has already seen game action this month. Not with the Jets, but with Finland’s entry at the World Cup of Hockey.

Following offseason knee surgery, Laine wasn’t happy with his performance in Finland’s first pre-tournament game. In three tournament games, Laine failed to register a point, despite a team-best 10 shots on goal, as Finland was quickly eliminated in the round robin.

Related:

Looking to make the leap: Patrik Laine

Murray: Ristolainen’s good-faith gesture unlikely to sway talks with Sabres

BUFFALO, NY - JANUARY 22: Rasmus Ristolainen #55 of the Buffalo Sabres makes a pass during the game against the Detroit Red Wings on January 22, 2016 at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Brenner/Getty Images)
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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Buffalo Sabres general manager Tim Murray tells The Associated Press he doesn’t believe defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen‘s decision to join the team for practice without a contract will have any effect on thawing negotiations.

With a big laugh, Murray on Friday said the only way Ristolainen could speed up contract talks is if “he got all lovey-dovey” and elected to take the Sabres’ latest offer.

Ristolainen is a restricted free agent whose rights were retained by the Sabres in June. After representing Finland in the World Cup of Hockey, Ristolainen reported to the Sabres on Thursday in what was regarded as a sign of good faith.

Though he’s not allowed to play because he’s not under contract, Ristolainen is practicing with the team and also taking part in meetings. Ristolainen is not making himself available to reporters.

Murray says he didn’t see anything wrong with allowing Ristolainen to practice, saying he’d rather the player be in Buffalo than working out elsewhere.

Murray says the two sides are still negotiating.

In three seasons, Buffalo’s 2013 first-round draft pick has established himself as the Sabres’ top defenseman. Last year, Ristolainen led the team in averaging more than 25 minutes of ice time per game, and led Buffalo defensemen with 41 points (nine goals, 32 assists).