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Botterill expects Petersen to go to free agency, move on from Sabres

Sabres GM also touches on Ullmark, Beaulieu at NHL Draft

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber / Sabres.com

CHICAGO - Sabres goalie prospect Cal Petersen will opt for free agency and is not expected to sign with the Buffalo Sabres, general manager Jason Botterill said Friday. The Sabres had 30 days to sign Petersen after he announced he was leaving Notre Dame University to turn pro on May 31.

"I enjoyed interacting with him, I think he's a very professional young man and I certainly wish him all the best," Botterill said. "We always knew that was a possibility. Disappointed, but we'll move on."

The NHL collective bargaining agreement gives players the ability to enter unrestricted free agency if they remain unsigned four years after their draft, a situation that transpired with now New York Rangers forward Jimmy Vesey last summer. The Sabres drafted Petersen in the fifth round in 2013. 

Still, Botterill said he remains a strong proponent of drafting players from the NCAA.

"It's always a possibility, but I still believe a lot in the college model and having players develop there," Botterill said. "I think it's a great scenario. It's very good form a standpoint of the work ethic, the strength training, juts the pace of play for skaters. 

"Overall, I think you still want to get the best player, you've got to work on developing that relationship with your development staff over time and when it comes to signing, hopefully they feel proud and want to be a part of your organization."

Speaking of goalies, Botterill confirmed that Linus Ullmark was among the players protected by the sixth-round pick that was sent to Vegas along with William Carrier during the NHL Expansion Draft on Wednesday night. 

After playing 20 games for the Sabres during his rookie season in 2015-16, Ullmark was a workhorse for Rochester last season. He posted a 2.87 goals-against average in 55 games and was rewarded with a two-year contract extension earlier this month.

"He was one of the players that we certainly wanted to keep from a depth perspective," Botterill said. "We wanted to strengthen our goaltending depth throughout the entire organization. He's a player that I have to continue to get familiar with but our staff here is very excited about him."

 

Why Beaulieu was a fit for Sabres

Botterill was asked about the deal that saw the Sabres acquire defenseman Nathan Beaulieu from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for a third-round pick on June 17, and he echoed Beaulieu's own thoughts that the defenseman is a perfect fit for coach Phil Housley's system. 

"He wants to play the way Phil wants to have the team play," Botterill said. "He can get up the ice, competes hard, is aggressive all over the ice. It's been no secret we've tried to add more depth to our defense core and we're very excited about bringing Nathan into the group."

 

Kane has already spoken with Housley

Evander Kane has been included in trade rumors from the national media as of late, but Botterill said the Sabres forward has already had productive talks with Housley. 

"We're always looking at different ways to improve our team, but Phil Housley has had some great conversations with Evander already," he said. "We know how talented of a player he certainly from a scoring aspect … How we want to play, he can certainly be a force. A lot of our interaction with Evander has been positive so far."

 

Interviews for Rochester are underway

Botterill said he has interviewed candidates for the vacant head coaching position in Rochester, while Housley has already conducted a number of interviews with new candidates as well as with the preexisting coaching staff to fill out his bench in Buffalo. 

When asked specifically if he could confirm that goalie coach Andrew Allen will be remaining with the team, Botterill expressed enthusiasm but said he could not yet provide a final confirmation.

"It's a situation where we're very excited about Andrew," he said. "My plan has always been to work with Andrew, but it's a scenario where Phil and I still have to make a final decision."

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