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Sabres C Roy signs 6-year, $24 million deal, avoids arbitration @NHL

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -Sabres forward Derek Roy avoided NHL arbitration on Friday by agreeing to a six-year, $24 million contract with Buffalo.

It's a hefty deal for a third-line center coming off a career season in which he finished fifth on the Sabres with 63 points (21 goals, 42 assists) in 75 games. The deal represents a significant raise for Roy, who made $627,000 last year.

"Derek is a solid young player who will only continue to improve," general manager Darcy Regier said. "We look forward to having such a quality player in our organization for many years to come."

The deal was announced shortly before Roy was scheduled to have an arbitration hearing in Toronto.

Buffalo's second-round pick in the 2001 draft, Roy blossomed in his third year with the Sabres last season while centering a line featuring high-scoring wingers Thomas Vanek and Maxim Afinogenov.

Roy is being counted on to play an even bigger role after the Presidents' Trophy-winning Sabres lost co-captains Chris Drury and Daniel Briere to free agency on July 1.

"He played a very important role for us last year," Regier said. "At 23 years of age, that's only going to grow. I think he can grow into a leadership role at some point, and I think he can grow into even a better offensive player."

The length of the contract is a major departure for the Sabres, who previously were against signing players to deals beyond four years. The Sabres philosophy is changing after they were unable to retain Drury and Briere.

Buffalo was also forced into re-signing Vanek to a seven-year, $50 million contract this month by matching an offer sheet presented to him by the Edmonton Oilers.

"You have to identify players that are part of your core, or can be a part of your core," Regier said. "You have to make decisions earlier than you did in the past, and you have to make them for a longer period of time."

Roy is a solid two-way forward, finishing tied for fourth in the NHL with a plus-37 rating.

After scoring 15 of his 21 goals in the second half of last season, Roy's production tapered off in the playoffs. He managed two goals and five assists in 16 postseason games before the Sabres were eliminated by Ottawa after reaching the Eastern Conference finals for a second straight season.

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