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Teammates, friends were glad to see Okposo back on the ice

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From the sound of things, Kyle Okposo‘s presence at “Da Beauty League” was a beautiful sight for Buffalo Sabres teammates, former teammates on the New York Islanders, and friends around the NHL.

NHL.com’s Jessi Pierce was at that informal game, which apparently didn’t go well for Okposo’s team.

That’s not the important part, certainly not in July. While Pierce noted that Okposo wasn’t comfortable answering questions during his first on-ice action in almost four months, it sounds like the talented winger was looking good on Wednesday night.

Onlookers agreed with that sentiment, and also seconded the notion that he’s been doing well this summer, overall.

“Obviously seeing a teammate go through something like that and struggle to get healthy is tough,” Sabres teammate Hudson Fasching said, via Pierce’s piece for NHL.com. “He’s such a good guy and going through a lot with that whole deal, trying to figure out what was wrong.

“I’m just happy he’s healthy and happy for him to get back.”

It was already noted that Okposo is expected to be ready for Sabres training camp, yet nights like these make it clearer that he’s likely on course. That’s a fantastic turnaround from his health scare in April.

Pierce also has more here.

Sabres’ Kyle Okposo returning to ice after health scare

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Here’s some heartwarming hockey news for you: apparently Kyle Okposo is playing hockey tonight.

Considering his late-season health scare, it was promising enough that the Buffalo Sabres expect him to be ready by training camp. But in mid-July? This is even more promising.

Apparently he’s one of many NHL-relevant participants in … “Da Beauty League?”

Again, there are a lot of familiar names, as you can see based on this lineup sheet:

Wow. Along with Okposo, there are many other noteworthy participants, including Dustin Byfuglien, Ryan McDonagh, and Zach Parise.

Here’s more insight on the event, via their “About Us” section:

Da Beauty League was established in the Fall of 2015 by local business people in an effort to bring professional hockey to Minnesota on a year round basis. Da Beauty League centers itself on bringing fans fast paced professional hockey in a casual environment. For the players, Da Beauty League serves as a training ground for the players as they prepare for their upcoming professional seasons. Da Beauty League provides fans with 3 fast paced regular season games played out of Braemar Arena on a nightly basis during the summer. Fans will experience a relaxed atmosphere to watch hockey and enjoy typical intermission entertainment while watching the best hockey talent in the world.

Really, though, it’s just great to see that Okposo’s apparently feeling close to 100 percent.

(H/T to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.)

Minnesota ‘always felt like home’ for Scandella, who was traded to Sabres

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Marco Scandella and Jason Pominville were both involved in the significant trade made between the Buffalo Sabres and Minnesota Wild, but it’s reasonable to assume that Scandella was more deeply shaken by the change.

After all, Pominville returns to the scene of some of his career-best moments in Buffalo. Scandella, meanwhile, admitted the shock he felt to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo.

OK, shock might be a bit much since Scandella acknowledged that he thought a move was possible, but it wasn’t something that just bounced off of him.

” … It wasn’t easy,” Scandella said. “I got drafted by Minnesota, I love the guys, I love the city. I’ve always felt like it’s been a home for me. It doesn’t even feel like a second home. It always felt like home. It was tough at the beginning to get traded, but at the end of the day, it’s a new challenge and I’m super excited about the new challenge I have. But I’ll always cherish the years I had in Minnesota and all the great friends and all the people I’ve met over the years. It’s an incredible place to live and play hockey.”

If nothing else, Scandella isn’t outrageous in talking up the possibility for improvements in Buffalo, as he discusses with Russo.

He points out the work new Sabres head coach Phil Housley did with Nashville’s defense, and Scandella is part of the reason that this franchise should be more optimistic about its blueline.

MORE: Scandella, Pominville moved in that multi-part trade

Perhaps Rasmus Ristolainen can begin to shed his image as an offense-first liability on defense? He is just 22, after all.

Beyond that, Scandella adds credibility to the mix, while Nathan Beaulieu brings the sort of “modern,” puck-moving style that could mix well with Housley’s philosophies.

The Sabres already have some upside in net with the Robin LehnerChad Johnson combo, and with skilled forwards including Jack Eichel and Ryan O'Reilly, there are some reasons for excitement.

All that sweetness doesn’t totally cancel out bitter feelings for Scandella, who knows that hockey is a business but hasn’t had to deal with the negative aspects like trades all that often (until now). More on that here.

It looks like Sam Reinhart will have to wait until next summer for new contract

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Entering the final year of his entry-level contract, Buffalo Sabres forward Sam Reinhart is eligible to sign a new long-term contract extension this summer.

The team is already trying to work out a deal with its other core forward in a similar situation — Jack Eichel — but to hear new general manager Jason Botterill talk there does not seem to be any rush to get a deal done with Reinhart before next summer.

“We’re always in dialog with [agent] Craig Oster, we just got a deal done with [Johan] Larsson and we’re in communication with him on [Robin] Lehner. It’s just an area where we’re excited with Sam, but I don’t think something from a contract standpoint will be happening this summer,” Botterill said, via WGR’s Paul Hamilton. “We have him under contract for another year and we’ll see how things play out and go from there.”

Given the negotiations that are ongoing with Eichel and Lehner (a restricted free agent that needs a new deal this summer) it is understandable that Reinhart might get pushed to the back burner a little bit. But another way of looking at that might be, we want to see what he does in year three before we commit to him.

Reinhart was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2014 draft, going one spot behind Aaron Ekblad. Reinhart will be eligible for restricted free agency next summer.

He was one of the signature picks of former general manager Tim Murray and one of the first ones that was supposed to make the organization’s complete teardown worth it in the long-run.

Two full seasons in to his career and the results have been okay, but nothing that really stands out. He has topped 40 points in each of the past two seasons which is not terrible production for a player that young — it is actually pretty decent — but isn’t exactly on the level of a franchise player yet, either.

Waiting another year to see where Reinhart’s career goes probably isn’t the worst idea for Botterill and the Sabres.

Sabres re-sign Larsson to two-year deal, with AAV of $1.475 million

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The Buffalo Sabres have brought back 24-year-old forward Johan Larsson on a two-year contract.

The Sabres announced the deal on Saturday, adding this new contract comes with an average annual value of $1.475 million, as both sides avoid arbitration.

Last season, Larsson scored six goals and 11 points in 36 games for the Sabres. That would’ve put him on pace for his most productive season in the NHL so far.

However, his regular season was cut short at the end of December after surgery to repair elbow and wrist injuries. He suffered the injuries on a clean hit into the boards from Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid, ending his campaign.