Author: Mike Halford

Buffalo Sabres v New York Islanders

Sabres, Varone avoid arbitration with one-year, $600K deal

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Just over a week after filing for arbitration, Phil Varone has avoided the hearing by agreeing to a one-year, $600,000 deal with the Sabres.

The contract is of the two-way variety.

Varone, 24, split last season between the Sabres and their AHL affiliate in Rochester, appearing in a career-high 28 NHL games while scoring five points. With the Amerks, he had 15 goals and 44 points in 55 games — and it was the AHL part of his contract that led to the original arbitration filing, per the Buffalo News:

Varone had a pro-rated NHL salary of $595,000 last season and made $62,500 in the AHL. The Sabres tendered him his NHL qualifying offer by last week’s deadline, which would push his NHL salary into the $655,000 range. He’s likely looking for a much bigger salary for the AHL portion of his deal, given the large minor-league salaries the Sabres handed out last week in free agency.

Buffalo will be paying former Utica Comets captain Cal O’Reilly $700,000 next season to play in the AHL, while defenseman Matt Donovan would make $400,000 with the Amerks, defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti would make $300,000 and forward Jason Akeson would be at $250,000.

Varone will be in tough for minutes with Buffalo next season. The team will be dramatically different at center, with Ryan O’Reilly as the new No. 1 and both Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart looking to crack the roster and be full-time contributors.

GM Tim Murray also added some depth in veteran David Legwand, acquired from Ottawa in the Robin Lehner deal.

Wild sign ’15 first-rounder Eriksson Ek

2015 NHL Draft - Round One

Minnesota has agreed to a three-year, entry-level contract with Swedish forward Joel Eriksson Ek, the 20th overall pick at this year’s draft.\

“We’re excited to officially have Joel under contract,” Wild assistant GM Brent Flahr said in a release. “He’s a top young player with an exciting package of size, skill, hockey sense and character. We are committed to working with him in the development process and look forward to seeing him in a Wild uniform in the near future.”

Per the Star-Tribune, Eriksson Ek will return to Sweden next year and play with SHL Farjestad (he’s under contract for the next two years). That he’s headed back home isn’t much of a surprise; Eriksson Ek split last season between Farjestad’s senior and junior teams and only turned 18 in January.

What’s more, there aren’t a ton of roster spots available at forward in Minnesota.

An overage of bodies saw the team cut ties with the likes of Matt Cooke, Kyle Brodziak and Chris Stewart this summer, and it’s expected GM Chuck Fletcher will use the organization’s internal options (Jordan Schroeder, Ryan Carter, Erik Haula, etc.) to fill the few spaces available.

Devils sign ’14 first-rounder Quenneville to ELC

2014 NHL Draft - Portraits - Round 1

The New Jersey Devils locked in one of their brighter young prospects on Monday, agreeing to a three-year, entry-level deal with John Quenneville — the club’s first-round pick (30th overall) at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.

Quenneville, 19, has some pretty strong hockey bloodlines. His brother (Peter) was drafted by Columbus in 2013 and his second cousin (Joel) is the three-time Stanley Cup-winning coach of the Chicago Blackhawks. His uncle (by marriage) is New York Islanders’ d-man Johnny Boychuk.

The youngest of the bunch, Quenneville’s spent the last three years with WHL Brandon and had a nice run through the 2015 playoffs, scoring 10 goals and 19 points in 19 games. He’s currently participating at the Devils’ prospects camp, and it’ll be interesting to see what kind of impression he makes on new GM Ray Shero and new head coach John Hynes.

New Jersey is in a transitional state and could be willing to give some younger players looks at the NHL level, though Quenneville may be another year away from making that jump.

Report: Bid to buy Penguins expected next week

Mario Lemieux

The rumored Pittsburgh Penguins sale appears to be moving quickly.

Just over a month after owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle hired Morgan Stanley to “oversee a review of their strategic options,” the Pittsburgh Business Times now reports that an investors group is expected to make an offer to buy the franchise by next week.


The identities of the bidders and size of the bid were not disclosed, although some who have done deals in the National Hockey League said the team could sell anywhere from $700 million to $850 million.

Last fall, Forbes priced the Pens at $565 million, a price many believe is low given its equity in the real estate development at the former Civic Arena site.

Given the short supply of NHL teams that are on the block and as financially stable as the Penguins franchise, “This is unusual and it’s not like there are five teams for sale,” said a professional sports investor who asked not to be identified.

After word got out last month about investigation a potential sale, Lemieux addressed the rumors in a statement.

“Our goal all along was to solidify the franchise both on and off the ice,” he said. “Our star players are signed to long-term contracts and they’ve got a deep and passionate fan base to support them, and I believe the Penguins are well-positioned for the future.

“Regardless of what happens,  I plan on staying involved with the team in some capacity, and Ron and I plan to retain an ownership stake.”

Morgan Stanley is the same company that facilitated Terry Pegula’s purchase of the Buffalo Sabres in February of 2011. It’s also worth noting that the Penguins’ lease with Consol Energy Center runs until 2037 and, last month, Mayor Bill Peduto said it included “guarantees that there are no options to break it,” essentially shooting down any notion of the team relocating.

Ryan O’Reilly charged with impaired driving, failing to remain at scene (Updated)

Colorado Avalanche v Minnesota Wild - Game Three

Newly acquired Buffalo Sabres center Ryan O’Reilly has been charged with impaired driving and leaving the scene following an incident at a Tim Horton’s restaurant, according to Ontario’s AM 980 Radio.


OPP [Ontario Provincial Police] announced Monday that O’Reilly, 24, from Bluewater, Ont., had been charged with driving a motor vehicle while ability impaired (alcohol) and care or control over 80 mgs.

He was also charged under the Highway Traffic Act with failing to remain at the scene.

According to Middlesex County OPP, a green Chevrolet pickup struck struck a commercial building on Richmond St. last Thursday morning (July 9) just after 4:00am. An employee of the Lucan Tim Hortons confirmed to AM980 that there had been a motor vehicle incident, but was unaware of the driver’s identity.

After the collision, police say a suspect drove the vehicle southbound on Saintsbury Line, before abandoning it and traveling by foot with another, unnamed, male occupant.

The OPP report says the individuals were later found, with police determining the driver had been drinking alcohol.

The Buffalo News has also since reported the incident.

Two weeks ago, O’Reilly signed a seven-year, $52.5 million deal with the Sabres, after he was acquired from Colorado at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. O’Reilly’s Twitter account appears to be have been deactivated; in a screengrab obtained by News 980, O’Reilly posted an image of a green 1951 Chevrolet truck back in May with the caption “Got my new truck.”

Update: On what appears to be O’Reilly’s Instagram account, the same image appears (Note: PHT has blanked out the comments due to profanity.)


O’Reilly is slated to appear in a London, Ont. court on Aug. 20 to answer charges.

PHT has reached out to the NHL and NHLPA for comment.

UPDATE: The Sabres have released the following statement…

“We are aware of the reports regarding the incident involving Ryan O’Reilly last week. We are currently in the process of gathering more information and will have no further comment until we have spoken with all the parties involved.”