REGIER CONFIDENT HE'LL BE BACK, CAPTAINS UNCERTAIN
Sabres general manager Darcy Regier is confident he and coach Lindy Ruff will be back in Buffalo next season. Co-captains Chris Drury's and Daniel Briere's futures with the team are less certain.
"Both of us expect to be back," Regier said Monday, referring to himself and Ruff, whose contracts expired after this season. "There's been work that's been positive and I don't expect any changes going forward. We'll get there at some point."
What's yet to been determined is the Sabres' plans in attempting to re-sign Briere and Drury, both eligible to become unrestricted free agents July 1.
Regier told The Associated Press he hasn't had any talks with either player, but he expects the process to begin as early as next week.
"We'll get through this week," Regier said, noting he and team executives are still conducting an end of season analysis after the Sabres were eliminated from the playoffs by Ottawa in Game 5 the Eastern Conference finals May 19.
"I think it's really important for us to sit down - and we've started to and we'll finish this week - and analyze everything from start to finish and then move from there," he said.
Regier spoke prior to the start of the NHL general managers meeting being held prior to Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final between Ottawa and Anaheim.
Regier said he felt it was important not to say anything immediately after the playoffs in order to give everyone with the team time to digest a disappointing ending after the Presidents' Trophy winners failed to reach the Cup finals.
"I think it was more of just allowing things to settle out," Regier said. "If you're going to do it right, you need to take time to let things settle in place and really just work from there."
Drury and Briere are the team's biggest question marks, and Regier confirmed that the Sabres will work on a budget that will be below the NHL's salary cap, which is projected to rise to about US$48 million, which would mark a US$4-million increase over last year.
The Sabres' payroll was at the US$44-million cap - ballooning by US$15 million - after they made a determined effort to keep intact the core of the team that reached the East finals last season.
"I think we'll still have a very workable budget and a very good hockey team," Regier said.
Fitting Briere and Drury in that budget remains a big question.
Drury set career highs with 37 goals and 69 points and is expected to receive a considerable raise over the US$3.15 million he made last year.
Briere, who scored a team-leading and career-high 95 points, is also expected to earn a raise over the one-year US$5-million contract he earned in salary arbitration.
Briere's agent Pat Brisson told The AP he's not had any discussions with Buffalo, but is open to negotiations. Brisson said he has a sense of what Briere's value will be on the open market and would consider offers from the Sabres if they approach his marks.
Drury has traveled to his off-season home in southern California and expected to begin determining his contract strategy next week.
Forwards Dainius Zubrus and Adam Mair, defenceman Teppo Numminen and backup goalie Ty Conklin are also eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer.
The Sabres must also make room to re-sign forward Thomas Vanek, who scored a team-leading 43 goals. Buffalo can retain Vanek's rights by offering him a tendered contract, although the forward is eligible for arbitration.