Sabres talking with Hodgson, will contact Briere

Tuesday, 07.02.2013 / 1:14 PM
Mike G. Morreale  - Staff Writer

Buffalo Sabres general manager Darcy Regier confirmed Tuesday that the organization has begun contract talks with impending restricted free agent center Cody Hodgson.

"We're just waiting to hear back from his agent [Ritch Winter]," Regier said during a press conference at First Niagara Center in Buffalo.

Hodgson had 15 goals and 34 points in 2012-13, his first full season with the Sabres. He was acquired in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks on Feb. 27, 2012, along with Alexander Sulzer, in exchange for Zack Kassian and Marc-Andre Gragnani.

Regier also said Mikhail Grigorenko, the team's first pick in the 2012 NHL Draft (No. 12) will be on the Sabres' roster for all of the 2013-14 season. Grigorenko had one goal and five points in 25 games with the Sabres in 2012-13 before being returned to his junior team, the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Because Grigorenko is 19, he is eligible to play only with the Sabres or Quebec.

The team also will be contacting former captain Danny Briere, according to Regier. The Philadelphia Flyers announced June 20 they would be buying out the final two years of Briere's eight-year, $52 million contract. Briere, 35, spent four seasons with the Sabres prior to signing with the Flyers in July 2007.

In 15 NHL seasons, Briere, a 1996 first-round pick (No. 24) of the Phoenix Coyotes, has 286 goals and 659 points in 847 games with the Coyotes, Sabres and Flyers.

"During free agency, our focus is on supporting this younger core group that we already have," Regier said. "We want good players, but players committed to being pros and examples and contributors. Those are the most important characteristics and the direction we need to go."

Regier also said free agency wasn't the only place he was looking to upgrade his roster, and said he was investigating what the trade market held for a number of his players, among them leading scorer Thomas Vanek and goaltender Ryan Miller.

"I'm actively finding out what the marketplace is like, not limited to those two players," Regier said. "There will be a number of teams we'll speak to regarding not just the goaltending position but other positions as well."

Vanek, the team's leader in 2012-13 with 20 goals and 41 points, will be entering the final season of a contract that will pay him just over $7.1 million in 2013-14. Miller, who won the Vezina Trophy in 2010 and had a .915 save percentage despite facing the most shots in the League in 2012-13, will enter the final season of a contract that will pay him $6.25 million in 2013-14. Each player can become an unrestricted free agent in July 2014.

The Sabres are two days removed from a productive day at the 2013 NHL Draft.

The club selected a league-high 11 prospects (seven forwards, three defensemen and a goaltender), and traded defenseman Andrej Sekera to the Carolina Hurricanes for defenseman Jamie McBain and a second-round pick they used to select power forward J.T. Compher from United States National Team Development Program. The Sabres selected five players in the first two rounds, the most of any team in the NHL.

Sabres director of amateur scouting Kevin Devine didn't rule out the possibility of the team's top pick, Finnish defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, taken with the No. 8 selection, playing in the NHL in 2013-14.

"It all depends on him and how well he does at training camp," Devine said. "Obviously, we have Tyler Myers, McBain and Christian Ehrhoff in the top spots. Ristolainen is 18 and played at a high level last season [for TPS in Finland's SM-liiga]. We'll find out."

Ristolainen told in June he will do whatever it takes to secure a spot on a roster during NHL training camp.

"I have two more years left [on my contract with TPS], but my goal is to go through training and try to get on the [NHL] team that selects me," he said. "It seems that no matter what team you play for nowadays, you have a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup."

Ristolainen represented Finland at the 2012 and 2013 World Junior Championship, totaling seven assists and nine points in 13 tournament games. He also represented his country at the 2012 Under-18 World Championship, where he had two goals and three points.

"My defensive-zone game is one area I must improve," he said. "In my first year in [SM-liiga], I was horrible in my own zone but got better [in 2012-13]. I still need to work at it, and my coaches helped a lot. During the NHL [lockout] a lot of NHL players helped out a lot."

In addition, Devine said recent draft picks Joel Armia, Daniel Catenacci and Collin Jacobs will begin their professional careers in 2013-14. Armia, the team's first-round pick in 2011, had 19 goals and 33 points in 47 games with Assat in SM-liiga, Finland's top professional league.

Regier also said the Sabres have every intention to re-sign center Matt Ellis, who is slated to become an unrestricted free agent Friday, with the intention of naming him captain of the team's American Hockey League affiliate, the Rochester Americans, if he doesn't stick with the Sabres. In six NHL games in 2012-13, he had no points and eight shots on goal.

However, Regier said the team would not be bringing back Sulzer, who had four points in 17 games.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mikemorrealeNHL

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