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Sabres re-sign Connolly to 2-year deal

by John McGourty
The Buffalo Sabres took Tim Connolly off the trade market Wednesday, signing the center to a two-year contract.

Connolly is a fast and clever skater with great stickhandling and passing skills, combined with an excellent selection of accurate shots, thus making him the target of assorted trade rumors in the days leading up to the deadline.

Connolly, 27, was in the final year of a three-year, $8.7 million contract. The new terms were not announced, per team policy.

Connolly is a tremendously talented center, but he has been hampered by health problems, including a series of concussions. The nine-year veteran missed 10 games with a back injury at the start of the season and then missed 24 games after suffering a broken rib on Nov. 15. He has 11 goals and 15 assists in 29 games and is plus-2. Connolly has two power-play goals, one shorthanded goal and three game winners.

Connolly originally was drafted by the New York Islanders with the fifth pick of the 1999 Entry Draft and played two seasons on Long Island, scoring 24 goals and adding 51 assists, but was minus-39.

The Syracuse native was acquired by the Sabres with Taylor Pyatt on June 24, 2001, in exchange for Michael Peca, the Sabres' former captain. In his first two seasons with Buffalo, Connolly had 22 goals and 48 assists, but was minus-24.

Connolly missed only three NHL games in his first four seasons, but he missed the entire 2003-04 season due to post-concussion syndrome, after suffering a concussion in a preseason game against the Chicago Blackhawks. He played the second half of the next season, the work-stoppage season, for Langnau in the Swiss League.

Connolly returned to the NHL in 2005 stronger and more determined than ever and had his best season with 16 goals and 39 assists in 63 games. He was one of the league's better players until Jan. 24, 2006, when he suffered a knee injury when checked by New York Rangers defenseman Darius Kasparaitis. He re-injured the knee shortly after returning in early March and missed the rest of the month. 

Connolly helped the Sabres eliminate the Philadelphia Flyers in six games in the first round of the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but he suffered a concussion when checked by Ottawa Senators forward Peter Schaefer early in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.

Connolly's goal with 10.7 seconds left in regulation in Game 1 against Ottawa set up Chris Drury's game-winning goal 18 seconds into overtime.

Connolly's post-concussion problems limited him to two games in the 2006-07 season and he returned the following season with 7 goals and 33 assists for 40 points in 48 games.

Connolly has 57 goals and 135 assists in 304 games for the Sabres over six seasons in which he is minus-12. In 24 Stanley Cup Playoff games, Connolly has five goals and 15 assists and is plus-9.

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