Buffalo Sabres

Gionta: Sabres’ offseason ‘excites guys in the locker room’

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The biggest winners of the Buffalo Sabres’ summer of resounding improvements might just be the players who suffered through the 2014-15 season (not to mention the fans).

Veteran winger Brian Gionta probably isn’t very familiar with seasons like that, so it makes sense that he seemed excited about the additions of Dan Byslma, Ryan O’Reilly, Jack Eichel, Robin Lehner and so on. He praised Sabres GM Tim Murray’s work to USA Today on Friday.

“Look at the moves he’s been able to make,” Gionta said. “You can say you want a better team, you want to bring in better players, but for him to actually pull that off and make the moves he did, it shows that he means business. That excites guys in the locker room.”

Back when he was hired by the team in May, Bylsma said that he sees a bright future for the team, as the Buffalo News reported. Even so, one would guess that Bylsma, Gionta and possibly even Murray are all a little surprised by just how much progress the Sabres have made in mere months.

(They certainly don’t seem out of place on “most improved teams” lists like this one by NHL.com.)

Naturally, it’s not that tough to improve upon the disaster that has been the Sabres for the past two seasons – the phrase “historically bad” came up uncomfortably often – but it remains to be seen how much these moves will translate into results.

It might take some time, yet it’s also plausible that the rebuild will be more rapid than expected, a notion that isn’t lost on veterans such as Gionta.

(H/T to The Score.)

Will Carolina fill defensive openings on UFA, trade markets?

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The Carolina Hurricanes have just four defensemen signed with at least 100 games worth of NHL experience. That makes their blueline a major question mark going into training camp, but even as we near the end of July, there are still plenty of options out there for teams looking to bolster their defense.

For example, Christian Ehrhoff and Cody Franson are both still available on the open market. There’s also presumably cheaper options out there like Andrej Meszaros and Jan Hejda.

“There’s been some dialogue with some guys, but we’re still sitting and waiting to see where the numbers go,” Hurricanes GM Ron Francis told the News & Observer. “The guys we’ve talked about are not in a range we’d be comfortable with yet, so we’re keeping an eye on it. I’m not in a hurry to jump in.”

Francis added that as more arbitration eligible players either get judgments or otherwise sign, more players might be made available. Additionally, Jeff Skinner is still reportedly on the block, so Carolina might end up making a more substantial trade before the summer is done.

All that being said, Francis sees some appeal in maintaining the status quo.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing to have a spot open going into camp,” Francis said. “It sends a good message to our younger guys.”

With James Wisniewski, Justin Faulk, John-Michael Liles, and Ron Hainsey all presumably locks to make the roster, that would leave 2015 fifth overall pick Noah Hanifin, Ryan Murphy, Danny Biega, Michal Jordan, Rasmus Rissanen, and Haydn Fleury to compete for the final three openings.

Sabres wrap up RFA signings by inking D’Amigo

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Perhaps the Buffalo Sabres’ busy front office can finally take a vacation, as the team signed its last remaining RFA Jerry D’Amigo to a one-year, two-way deal on Thursday.

The 24-year-old became a member of the Sabres’ organization thanks to a trade that also involved Luke Adam.

He played in nine games for Buffalo in 2014-15, failing to score a point. He also played in 22 contests for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2013-14, collecting his only career NHL points (one goal, two assists).

Toronto selected D’Amigo with the 158th pick of the 2009 NHL Draft. For many, his most memorable contributions have come at the international level for the U.S. so far.

source: Getty Images
via Getty

Being reunited with Roy in Colorado feels so good for Grigorenko

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If anyone will give Mikhail Grigorenko the benefit of the doubt, it’s Patrick Roy.

The fiery Colorado Avalanche head coach was Grigorenko’s bench boss with the QMJHL’s Quebec Ramparts in 2011-12 and 2012-13, his best days with that team. The 2011-12 campaign stands out in particular: 85 points in 59 games, a run that likely inspired the Buffalo Sabres to select him 12th overall in the 2012 NHL Draft.

With that in mind, it’s not too surprising that the 21-year-old told the Denver Post that he’s thrilled to play for Roy again, this time with the Avs.

“I can’t wait for the opportunity to have him as a coach again,” Grigorenko said. “I had my best years in Quebec and it was great having Patrick as a coach. He was great to me and taught me a lot of things on and off the ice. I can’t thank him enough for what he’s done for me already, and I can’t wait to have him as a coach again.”

It’s probably an understatement to say that Grigorenko needed this change of scenery in the form of being traded from the Buffalo Sabres (and signing a one-year deal reportedly at $675K).

He’s going to a place where his coach could vouch for him, which stands in contrast to Buffalo, where people wondered why Grigorenko was “afraid” of signing a two-way deal and former head coach Ted Nolan slammed his efforts as “lackadaisical.”

Back in March, Roy stood up for the struggling prospect, praising his skills and hockey sense to the Buffalo News.

While some will judge Grigorenko as part of the Ryan O’Reilly trade package, his cheap contract strengthens the argument that the Avalanche are making a low-risk move here. If optimism makes any difference, Roy may very well help Colorado strike quite the bargain.

Zubov named assistant of Russian national team

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Sergei Zubov, one of the greatest Russian defensemen in NHL history, has been named an assistant on head coach Oleg Znarok’s Russian national team staff.

More, from IIHF.com:

Zubov will help the national team in their preparation for the next IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships including the 2016 edition on home ice in Moscow and St. Petersburg, for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey and for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.

He will specifically be responsible for defencemen and will combine his duties with the national team and his club team SKA St. Petersburg.

Zubov, 44, appeared in over 1000 NHL games over a 12-year career with stops in New York, Pittsburgh and Dallas. He won a pair of Cups with both the Rangers and Stars and is one of just a handful of defensemen in league history to record 70-plus assists in a single season — he recorded 77 during the ’93-94 campaign, 12th-most all-time.

This appointment promises to be a good one for Russia, which has struggled to produce NHL-caliber defensemen in recent years. Zubov, a Norris Finalist in 2006, will now get to work with a young, albeit small, crop of promising prospects and youngsters that includes Philly’s Ivan Provorov, Colorado’s Nikita Zadorov and Florida’s Dmitri Kulikov.