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.
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.
The Chicago Blackhawks have already traded Brandon Saad and watched unrestricted free agents Brad Richards and Antoine Vermette walk due to the realities of their salary cap situation, but they aren’t completely out of the woods yet.
They’re still above the cap, per General Fanager, and that’s before re-signing Marcus Kruger or UFA Johnny Oduya. The defenseman has been patiently waiting to see if Chicago can clear the cap space necessary to retain him.
Kruger is in a similar boat. His agent, J.P. Barry, told CSN Chicago that he’s “trying to see if a multi-year contract is possible,” but they might have to wait until Chicago finds a solution to its cap issues before such a deal can be signed.
The upside is that Kruger is a restricted free agent and he decided against filing for salary arbitration, so his situation isn’t urgent, but it needs to be addressed eventually. A team is allowed to exceed the cap by 10% during the summer, but Chicago has to get its house in order before the start of the regular season.
Just keep in mind that the Blackhawks didn’t make the Nick Leddy trade last year until October, so a resolution might not be imminent.