Jason Brough

New York Islanders' Kyle Okposo leaves the ice after Game 3 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Sunday, May 5, 2013, in Uniondale, N.Y. The Penguins defeated the Islanders in overtime 5-4. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Okposo on joining the Sabres: ‘There’s so much skill, and the future is bright’

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When Kyle Okposo was with the Islanders, he got to play with a couple of pretty good centers in John Tavares and Frans Nielsen.

Now he’s in Buffalo, where he’ll get to play with Ryan O'Reilly and Jack Eichel.

Those are some pretty good centers, too.

In fact, they’re a big reason Okposo chose to sign in Buffalo. He believes the Sabres have the talent to win, and that they’ll start to win soon. Sure, the $42 million they committed to give him over the next seven years was a decent reason too, but the situation still had to be right.

“I’ve been saying it for a week, that Ryan is one of the smartest players, one of the smartest centers in the league, in my opinion,” Okposo said today, per the Olean Times Herald. “Jack’s got nowhere to go but up. His ceiling’s so high. He’s going to be a tremendous player in this league for a long time.”

Sam Reinhart and Rasmus Ristolainen could be pretty tremendous as well. They’re still only 20 and 21, respectively. If the Sabres can sign Jimmy Vesey, even better.

The challenge now is to actually turn all that young talent into a contender. Suffice to say, expectations have been raised, and it won’t be acceptable to finish at the bottom of the standings anymore. Remember that GM Tim Murray is not an overly patient man. He said two years ago, “I don’t buy into five-year rebuilds.”

At the very least, the Sabres should expect to compete for a spot in the postseason next year. They haven’t made the playoffs since 2011.

“There’s so much skill, and the future is bright,” Okposo said, per the Buffalo News. “I really believe that we can win here, and that’s what sold me. That’s why you play the game. You play the game to win a Stanley Cup, to win a championship, to raise banners. I think this team has the ability to do that.”

Related: Sabres are rebuilding at an ‘accelerated rate’

Devils lock up Palmieri with five-year contract

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 10: Kyle Palmieri #21 of the New Jersey Devils in action against the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center on October 10, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Washington Capitals won, 5-3. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

The New Jersey Devils announced today that they’ve re-signed forward Kyle Palmieri to a five-year contract with a cap hit of $4.65 million.

Palmieri, 25, was New Jersey’s leading scorer last season, with 30 goals and 27 assists. Devils GM Ray Shero had been hoping to get the right winger locked up to a long-term deal, so mission accomplished there. The signing also means the two sides will avoid an arbitration hearing.

Yesterday, the Devils announced they’d signed Sergey Kalinin to a one-year, $800,000 contract. Forward Reid Boucher and defenseman Reece Scarlett are now their only remaining restricted free agents.

The Palmieri signing caps off a busy spell for the Devils, who last week acquired Taylor Hall from Edmonton for Adam Larsson, then signed Ben Lovejoy and Vern Fiddler in free agency.

The Wings’ search for a ‘top-three defenseman’ may last until training camp

Colorado Avalanche v Detroit Red Wings

Ken Holland would “love to get a top-three defenseman,” but it may not be until training camp that he can make his best offer.

Before he does anything too bold, the Red Wings’ general manager wants to know what he’s got up front.

“Part of this might be let’s get to September and see,” Holland told the Detroit News. “I’m hoping we’ve got 15, 16 NHL forwards and we’re positioned to do a deal.”

It was reported a couple of weeks ago that the St. Louis Blues had asked for Dylan Larkin in a potential Kevin Shattenkirk trade. Blues GM Doug Armstrong has since said he might not trade Shattenkirk at all.

It’s a game of chicken, basically. The Wings obviously aren’t giving up Larkin, the 19-year-old center who could be the next “face of the franchise.” But losing, say, Gustav Nyquist or Tomas Tatar wouldn’t be so hard to swallow if a young prospect like Anthony Mantha came to camp looking ready to be an NHL regular.

Per General Fanager, the Wings have 15 healthy forwards under contract for next season. That doesn’t include Teemu Pulkkinen, a restricted free agent who may not be ready for camp after offseason shoulder surgery. But it does include Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou, each of whom remain waivers exempt.

“If some of the kids come to camp and they haven’t taken a step forward and they can go back to the American league, then they’ll go back to the American league,” said Holland.

“We’ll make a decision in September.”

Related: Like Shattenkirk, Cam Fowler is also surprised he hasn’t been traded yet

Lou Fontinato, who feuded with Gordie Howe, died Sunday

NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 22: Former New York Ranger Lou Fontinato attends the ceremony honoring Andy Bathgate and Harry Howell prior to the game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New York Rangers on February 22, 2009 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Former Rangers and Canadiens defenseman Lou Fontinato died Sunday in Guelph, Ontario, according to the NHL’s website.

He was 84 years old.

A tough customer during his playing career, Fontinato didn’t score many goals — just 25 in 535 NHL games — but he did amass 1,247 penalty minutes. It’s been written he had “a reputation for mayhem.”

From his obituary in the New York Times:

Fontinato, a popular player in New York, had a long-running feud with Gordie Howe, the great forward for the Detroit Red Wings who died last month. The two had several extracurricular physical exchanges on the ice, the most notable occurring at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 1, 1959.

In that encounter, in the first period of a game the Rangers won, Fontinato went after Howe — hardly a shrinking violet himself — perhaps in retaliation for a hard check by Howe on the Rangers’ Eddie Shack, perhaps coming to Shack’s aid in a fight that also involved the Wings’ Red Kelly. Accounts of the fight differ, but what is certain is that in the flurry of blows, Howe connected with what the N.H.L. website described as “one of the most famous roundhouses” in league history, flattening Fontinato’s nose.

His career ended on the ice at the Forum in Montreal on March 9, 1963. Playing for the Canadiens against the Rangers, he was checked into the boards by the Rangers’ Vic Hadfield, breaking his neck. His arms and legs were paralyzed for several weeks, though he eventually recovered, returning to Guelph and working as a farmer.

Related: ‘I hope he doesn’t elbow too many angels’ – Eulogizing Gordie Howe

Ray Bourque due in court on drunken driving charge

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 31:  Ray Bourque #77 of the Boston Bruins skates against the Montreal Canadiens during the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic  Alumni Game at Gillette Stadium on December 31, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

LAWRENCE, Mass. (AP) Former Boston Bruins star Ray Bourque (bork) is expected to appear in a Massachusetts court to try to resolve a drunken driving charge.

A spokeswoman for Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett confirmed that the office has been advised that Bourque will be in Lawrence District Court on Wednesday to try to resolve the case.

Bourque pleaded not guilty last week to operating under the influence of alcohol after his Mercedes-Benz rear-ended a minivan in Andover on June 24. No one was hurt.

Police said Bourque had a blood-alcohol level of 0.249, three times the state’s legal limit to drive.

Bourque said in a statement last week: “I am not happy about the situation I put myself into.”

Bourque helped the Colorado Avalanche win a Stanley Cup in 2001, then retired.