Buffalo Sabres

Sabres reach their season tickets cap with 96 percent renewal rate

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The Buffalo Sabres’ last two seasons have been among the worst in franchise history, but with optimism about their future high, it hasn’t been difficult to convince fans to come back for more.

In total 16,000 season tickets for the 2015-16 campaign have been sold by the Sabres, which is where they’ve set the limit so that there will still be seats available for individual games as well as mini-packs. Of those season ticket holders, 96 percent of them are fans that decided to renew their commitment following Buffalo’s 23-51-8 campaign. Not that the Sabres necessarily needed the renewal rate to be that high as they still have 2,000 people on their waiting list.

“The fact that we had such a high rate of renewal from our season ticket holders is really a testament to the direction our organization is headed,” Sabres president Russ Brandon said, per the team’s website. “There’s a tremendous amount of excitement surrounding our team and we can’t wait to get on the ice.”

Of course, selecting Jack Eichel with the second overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft is one of the main reasons fans are encouraged about Buffalo’s future. He is seen as a potential generational talent that should be the centerpiece of the Sabres for years to come.

Related: What does Jack Eichel mean to the Buffalo Sabres?

Kings ink Ehrhoff to a one-year, $1.5 million deal

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Christian Ehrhoff is headed to Los Angeles.

GM Dean Lombardi confirmed to Rich Hammond of The Orange County Register that the Kings have inked the unrestricted free agent blue liner to a one-year, $1.5 million deal.

Last month Ehrhoff’s agent, Rick Curran, told PHT that his client “doesn’t mind having the flexibility of a single year commitment. He’s confident in his ability to provide a valued role to the right team. If there’s a mutual fit, an extension will likely follow.”

As a result of multiple concussions, the 33-year-old appeared in just 49 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins last season scoring three goals and 11 assists while averaging 21:46 in time on ice.

Ehrhoff joined the Penguins on a one-year, $4 million deal after being bought out by the Buffalo Sabres following the 2013-14 season.

It’s Winnipeg Jets day at PHT

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Using the term “close sweep” might start a brawl at the wrong Winnipeg bar, yet it feels like a reasonable depiction of the Jets’ first-round exit.

Whether you agree or disagree about their margin of defeat against the Anaheim Ducks, the bottom line is that if you trace the Jets’ history back to the Thrashers era, the franchise remains at zero playoff wins all-time.

Yes, as in they haven’t ever won a playoff game not a series.

Despite that doom and gloom, Jets were a popular dark horse candidate heading into the 2015 postseason for a reason. They were an impressive possession team by most metrics.

Winnipeg combined an increasingly deep defense corps with its underrated high-end forwards to scare at least a few Western Conference observers. Hey, they even occasionally received competent goaltending, albeit from an uneven mix of Michael Hutchinson and Ondrej Pavelec.

(There was some poetic justice in Pavelec playing out of his mind down the stretch to get them into the playoffs.)

It all feels empty thanks to the sweep, but the Jets zoomed up a level or two in 2014-15. As wild card berths go, Winnipeg can point to some positives.

Off-season recap

The biggest change technically happened during the season, yet the Evander Kane swap is significant enough to at least get a quick mention.

It’s relevant enough to the summer anyway, as Drew Stafford played well enough to gain a two-year deal that carries a $4.35 million cap hit. Stafford is sticking around, while a surprise return is in store for Alex Burmistrov, who went on a two-year KHL sojourn.

Michael Frolik headlines a group of departing players who helped move the needle a bit depth-wise, also including Lee Stempniak, Jiri Tlusty and T.J. Galiardi.

Maybe the most significant off-season storyline is what Winnipeg did not do: Dustin Byfuglien and captain Andrew Ladd are currently entering the final season of their respective contracts.

O’Reilly’s impaired driving hearing pushed back to September

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From the Associated Press:

Sabres forward Ryan O’Reilly’s court case in connection with an impaired driving charge has been continued to Sept. 10.

The decision was made Thursday morning during O’Reilly’s first hearing in London, Ontario, court. The 24-year-old player was not required to attend, and was represented by his lawyer, David Humphrey.

The court case stems from an incident in mid-July, in which O’Reilly reportedly drove his truck into a Tim Horton’s restaurant.

Back on July 13, the Ontario Provincial police announced O’Reilly had been charged with driving a motor vehicle while impaired and, under the Highway Traffic act, failing to remain at the scene.

More, from Ontario’s AM 980 radio:

According to Middlesex County OPP, a green Chevrolet pickup truck 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.

Two weeks prior to the incident, 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.

McDavid, Eichel headline NHLPA Rookie Showcase

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This year’s NHLPA Rookie Showcase won’t be lacking star power.

The top two picks at this year’s entry draft — Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Buffalo’s Jack Eichel — will be in attendance, along with 38 other prospects that’ll descend upon Toronto on Tuesday, Sept. 1 for photo ops and media availability.

The list of invitees, per the players’ union:

Connor McDavid (Oilers), Jack Eichel (Sabres), Dylan Strome (Coyotes), Mitch Marner (Maple Leafs), Noah Hanifin (Hurricanes), Ivan Barbashev (Blues), Chris Bigras (Avalanche), Oliver Bjorkstrand (Blue Jackets), Madison Bowey (Capitals), Connor Brown (Maple Leafs), Michael Dal Colle (Islanders), Nikolaj Ehlers (Jets), Robby Fabbri (Blues), Zach Fucale (Canadiens), Nikolay Goldobin (Sharks), Ryan Hartman (Blackhawks), Connor Hellebuyck (Jets), Julius Honka (Stars), Kasperi Kapanen (Maple Leafs), Ronalds Kenins (Canucks), Slater Koekkoek (Lightning), Dylan Larkin (Red Wings), Sonny Milano (Blue Jackets), Samuel Morin (Flyers), Mike Matheson (Panthers), Michael McCarron (Canadiens), Josh Morrissey (Jets), Brendan Perlini (Coyotes), Nic Petan (Jets), Emile Poirier (Flames), Shane Prince (Senators), Ryan Pulock (Islanders), John Quenneville (Devils), Mike Reilly (Wild), Nick Ritchie (Ducks), Travis Sanheim (Flyers), Mackenzie Skapski (Rangers), Brady Skjei (Rangers), Shea Theodore (Ducks) and Jake Virtanen (Canucks).

This will mark the seventh year the PA has gathered rookies for its annual event. Last year’s Rookie Showcase featured 33 players, including Calder Trophy winner Aaron Ekblad and fellow finalist Johnny Gaudreau.