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Sabres Regier confident he'll be back; Drury, Briere uncertain @NHLdotcom

OTTAWA (AP) -Buffalo Sabres general manager Darcy Regier is confident he'll return with coach Lindy Ruff next season. Co-captains Chris Drury and Daniel Briere are less certain about their future.

"Both of us expect to be back," Regier said Monday, referring to himself and Ruff, whose contracts expired after this season. "There's been work that's been positive, and I don't expect any changes going forward. We'll get there at some point."

Briere and Drury are eligible to become unrestricted free agents July 1.

Regier said he hasn't had any talks with either player, but he expects the process to begin as early as next week.

"We'll get through this week," Regier said, noting he and team executives are still conducting a season analysis after the Sabres were eliminated from the playoffs by Ottawa in Game 5 the Eastern Conference finals.

"I think it's really important for us to sit down - and we've started to and we'll finish this week - and analyze everything from start to finish and then move from there," he said.

Regier, who has not made himself available since the Sabres were eliminated, spoke at the NHL general managers meeting ahead of Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals between Ottawa and Anaheim.

Regier said he felt it was important not to say anything immediately after the playoffs so everyone with the team time to digest a disappointing ending after the Presidents' Trophy winners failed to reach the Cup finals.

"I think it was more of just allowing things to settle out," Regier said. "If you're going to do it right, you need to take time to let things settle in place and really just work from there."

His lack of availability led to speculation of whether Regier, who completed his 11th year in Buffalo, and Ruff, the team's winningest coach, would leave.

Regier confirmed that the Sabres will work on a budget that will be below the NHL's salary cap, which is projected to rise to about $48 million and mark a $4 million increase over last year.

The Sabres' payroll was at the $44 million cap - ballooning by $15 million - after they made a determined effort to keep intact the core of the team that reached the East finals last season.

"I think we'll still have a very workable budget and a very good hockey team," Regier said.

Fitting Briere and Drury in that budget remains a big question.

Drury set career highs with 37 goals and 69 points and is expected to receive a considerable raise above the $3.15 million he made last year.

Briere, who scored a team-leading and career-high 95 points, is also expected to earn a raise above the one-year $5 million contract he earned in salary arbitration.

Briere's agent Pat Brisson said he's not had any discussions with Buffalo, but is open to negotiations.

Drury has traveled to his offseason home in southern California.

Forwards Dainius Zubrus and Adam Mair, defenseman Teppo Numminen and backup goalie Ty Conklin are also eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer.

The Sabres must also make room to re-sign forward Thomas Vanek, who scored a team-leading 43 goals. Buffalo can retain Vanek's rights by offering him a tendered contract, although the forward is eligible for arbitration.

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