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Sabres considering buyout of forward Hodgson

by Joe Yerdon

BUFFALO -- Buffalo Sabres forward Cody Hodgson could have the final four years of his contract bought out, general manager Tim Murray said Thursday.

The period to buy out contracts began Wednesday and is open until June 30.

"Status is still the same with Cody," Murray said. "We've discussed it with Cody based on the year he's had. And saying that, we've been in contact with his agent. And as I've said before, he's in Sweden. He's trying to improve himself and improve his game and improve his, I guess, fitness. I'm not sure how much fitness came into it, but skating and all that. We're following that and we're getting updates. Again, it's an option based on the League."

Former Sabres general manager Darcy Regier signed Hodgson to a six-year, $25.5 million contract in the summer of 2013. In 2013-14 he had NHL career-highs of 20 goals and 44 points, but last season was his worst in the NHL, with six goals and 13 points in 78 games.

The Sabres also have to make a determination on the future of forward Mikhail Grigorenko. The 12th pick of the 2012 NHL Draft, he will become a restricted free agent July 1. TSN has reported he could sign with a team in the Kontinental Hockey League.

"Their expectations of a contract are a little different than ours, so we haven't come to an agreement," Murray said. "There's a process. For Grigorenko, for example, he's coming out of his entry-level deal. They feel he's NHL-ready. We feel he needs time in the minors, whether that's 10 games, a half a year, whatever it is. That will depend on what kind of summer he has."

Murray said he hasn't decided if the Sabres would give Grigorenko a qualifying offer. If the Sabres don't tender Grigorenko that offer, he would become an unrestricted free agent.

Grigorenko also loses his waiver exemption next season, meaning if he were on a one-way contract and the Sabres wanted to send him to the American Hockey League, they would have to place him on waivers and chance losing him.

"[Grigorenko and his agent] tell me he's ready to play," Murray said. "I don't know why they'd be afraid of a two-way contract. I'm baffled, actually. If he's an NHL player, and we think he needs more time, then we have to put him on waivers. If he is what he thinks he is, he's in the NHL, in my opinion, just not in Buffalo. We're not arguing by any means. It's just a difference of opinion on a qualifying offer that has an AHL component to it vs. a one-way deal."

Another area the Sabres need to address in the offseason is goaltending. Chad Johnson is the only goalie under contract, and Murray said he needs to find goalies at the NHL and AHL levels.

"I've talked to five teams about goalies they have," Murray said. "We've got a list of free-agent goalies. The basic plan is to get a goalie, that's for sure. It's always a moving plan. The plan always moves and I've said that all along. We would love to trade for a goalie. We would love to trade for a young-ish goalie. If that doesn't work we would trade for a real good short-term goalie who is older. If we could sign the best or second-best free-agent goalie, we'd be happy with that too.

"You're working it every day and you're trying to figure out, first of all, the goalies available via trade and what the price is and can you can afford that price. And if at the end of the day you can't, then you have to move onto Plan B. … I'm confident that we can find something that will work here just by talking to other teams. There are people available and that's the avenue we're pursuing now."

The Sabres also announced they hired Terry Murray and Dave Barr to be assistant coaches on the staff of coach Dan Bylsma.

"I think there's a ton of experience in both guys," Bylsma said. "Terry is a guy who's been a head coach in this League, he's been an assistant coach in this League, he's been a head coach in the American Hockey League level. He's coached with and under some other great head coaches in other great systems and organizations and Terry's bringing that to our team. I think it's going to be a huge part of our development for our players, especially our defensemen. We have good, young defensemen here that are coming into our team and need to learn and need to develop in the game and Terry's going to help us out in that regard.

"Dave Barr is an experienced … Dave's been a long-time coach now. He's coached with some coaches I know quite well, Todd Richards in Minnesota, Tony Granato in Colorado. He's a guy I think that's going to bring a lot to our team on special teams and for our players and really they're both experienced guys but they're both excited to come in and help our staff and develop our team."

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