BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -The Sabres' managing partner went out of his way to compliment the loyalty of coach Lindy Ruff and general manager Darcy Regier after both re-signed with Buffalo for below market rate on Thursday.
Larry Quinn's comments could also have been interpreted as a message to co-captains Chris Drury and Daniel Briere - both of whom are eligible to become the NHL's most coveted free agents July 1.
"The last buck wasn't what they were looking for," Quinn said of Ruff and Regier. As for anyone hypothetically looking for that last buck, Quinn had this to say: "as good as he might be, you probably don't want him."
"We're looking for people who believe in being a Buffalo Sabre," Quinn added.
Buffalo is coming off consecutive 50-win seasons, both of which ended in the Eastern Conference finals.
Ruff, the Sabres' winningest coach, signed a three-year deal that includes an option for a fourth year, while Regier signed a two-year deal. The two will continue a partnership in Buffalo that began in 1997, making them the longest-serving coach-general manager tandem in the NHL.
Quinn said the deals were agreed to in principle before the start of the playoffs. Without providing financial terms, he credited both for signing contracts "substantially below what they would receive anywhere else in the National Hockey League."
The big question is whether the Sabres will get similar concessions from Drury and Briere, each projected to command at least a $6 million salary should they hit the market.
Quinn allayed fears by announcing the team is budgeting an increase in payroll. Last season, Buffalo spent up to the NHL's $44 million salary cap, which is projected to rise by about $5 million next year.
What's not clear is how far the Sabres are willing to go to re-sign one or both players.
Drury, who set career highs with 37 goals and 69 points, made $3.15 million last season. Briere, who led Buffalo with 95 points in the regular season and 15 in the playoffs, is coming off a one-year, $5 million deal he earned in arbitration.
Regier said he's had preliminary contact with representatives for both players, but wasn't making any promises.
"There's a lot of things at play," he said. "We'll get into that and see where it goes."
Regier added that the Sabres probably won't have any chance of re-signing either player if negotiations go past the start of free agency.
Ruff and Regier never considered leaving.
"I've got one goal and that's to win a Cup, and I feel my best chance is here," Ruff said. "There wasn't a question of leaving at all because we've worked hard at this. We've put a lot of work to getting it to where it's at. ... It would be foolish to step away from it now."
Ruff was still unhappy over how the season ended, when the top-seeded Sabres were eliminated by Ottawa in Game 5 of the East finals last month.
"That leaves a scar," Ruff said. "We felt we had a lot of good things in place. To lose, and to lose at home was even tougher. It was a tough way to end."
Ruff is 358-289-71 over nine seasons. He was the NHL's coach of the year last season and is a finalist again this year after Buffalo won a league-leading - and franchise-record - 53 games.
Regier was eager to get to work.
"I think where we left off this past season and what we have to look forward to is both exciting and incomplete," he said. "So it's an opportunity to continue down that road."
Regier is credited with leading the franchise through its lowest point when the Sabres were without an owner and forced to declare bankruptcy in 2003. He's also credited with having the foresight to build a fast and offensively talented group that's been the model of success since the NHL returned from its lockout in the summer of 2005.