The Buffalo Sabres have re-upped with RFA blueliner Mark Pysyk on a two-year, $2.25 million deal, per CBC.
Pysyk, 23, just wrapped his entry-level deal with Buffalo — he was the club’s first-round pick (23rd overall) in 2010 — but only appeared in seven games for the Sabres last year, spending most of the season in AHL Rochester before collapsing during a pickup basketball game in February.
(Pysyk, once medically cleared, did return to play three games for the Amerks at the end of the season.)
This new deal has a $1.125M cap hit, and Pysyk will carry that into next season looking to become a full-time NHLer. He appeared in 44 games during the ’13-14 campaign, but was dispatched to the AHL last year to work on his game; Pysyk’s chances of sticking with Buffalo in ’15-16 should be aided by the fact three regulars from last year — Nikita Zadorov, Andrej Meszaros, Andre Benoit — are no longer with the club.
That said, GM Tim Murray did bring in a trio of veteran presences in Matt Donovan, Carlo Colaiacovo and Bobby Sanguinetti this offseason.
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.
RFA defenseman Justin Schultz opted not to file for arbitration on Sunday.
On Monday, the Oilers did.
More, from the Edmonton Journal:
The Oilers elected to take defenceman Justin Schultz to arbitration to reach a contract conclusion. It also triggers an opportunity for the club to buy out a player making more than $2.75 million, which would free up more salary-cap room.
Players and NHL teams can continue to negotiate right up until they reach the arbitrator’s doorstep while the buyout window opens briefly for the club given the uncertainty of what the impact a new deal would have on the cap.
Schultz, 25, is coming off a year in which he scored 31 points in 81 games, but was a liability defensively; in addition to an ugly minus-17 rating, he had poor possession metrics and saw his ice time drop by nearly a minute, compared to the season prior.
The rub with Schultz, of course, is his salary — he earned $3.675 million last season, which is quite a bit given his precarious hold on a spot in Edmonton’s top-six defense. The additions of Andrej Sekera and Griffin Reinhart this offseason could greatly impact Schultz, as could the expected promotion of Darnell Nurse to the NHL level.
While a buyout seems unlikely — TSN’s Ryan Rishaug figures a deal will be reached — it does speak to how far Schultz has fallen. In 2012, the Oilers won the “sweepstakes” to sign Schultz after he opted not to ink with Anaheim, and in his first season in Edmonton he finished seventh in Calder voting, after scoring 27 points in 48 games.