As the summer wears on, rosters around the NHL are starting to take form. With the first wave of free agency completed, one would think that the trade market might start to heat up next.
Starting goaltender Ryan Miller and leading scorer Thomas Vanek are two players that Sabres general manager Darcy Regier said have garnered interest from other teams. Both players are set to become unrestricted free agents at the end of the 2013-14 season.
Regier said it would be fair to assess that, with the way the market is now, it’s likely that one or both players will still be with the Sabres when training camp opens in September.
“We’ve had some discussions regarding both those players,” Regier said during the annual “Blue & Gold Scrimmage” on Friday. “Obviously they’re here and they’re part of our organization. Nothing’s changed in that regard.”
When it comes to looking at making trades, Regier said that the cap coming down is playing a significant role and many teams are working up against that ceiling.
“The cap is a real big part of it. Any discussions that I have now involve taking back money, moving money. Money plays a very big role,” he said. “I think you can look at clubs you wouldn’t expect to be up and around $60-million-plus and they’re there.”
Regier has not had any contact with either player’s agent since around the time of the NHL Draft, but indicated that the lack of communication is not unusual as no teams are really speaking to their upcoming unrestricted free agents about contract extensions. He did say that that could certainly change in the coming weeks or months.
Forward Steve Ott also falls into the group of Sabres that will be free agents after this season.
The team is still looking at free agency “just lightly right now,” according to Regier.
“We’ve dabbled in it, but not in any real depth,” he said.
The team announced after the scrimmage that defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen signed a three-year entry-level contract with the club. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound native of Finland was Buffalo’s top pick in the 2013 NHL Draft (No. 8 overall).
Regier said that getting Ristolainen under contract was important to his development as a player and that he will be given an opportunity to play in the NHL in the fall.
“The preference is, the closer to Buffalo, the better,” Regier said. “But as you saw with [2011 first-round pick Joel] Armia’s contract, we reassigned him back to Finland for two years and it benefited him I think. Especially given that he was able to play and win a championship there was beneficial.”
Ristolainen’s goal is to make the Sabres roster come October.
“My goal this year is [to play] right away. That’s my main goal,” Ristolainen said. “I know it’s a tough call, but if everything goes pretty well, I don’t see why I can’t get it. I trust myself a lot.”
Regier also addressed the team’s decision to buy out the contract of forward Nathan Gerbe. Buffalo waived the former American Hockey League Rookie of the Year on July 3.
Regier said that the team looked first at sending him to the minors. However, they decided that course of action wouldn’t be beneficial to either party, so they started the buyout process.
“We didn’t have any intentions of buying him out initially, but in speaking with his agent over the course of the season, he was concerned about the opportunity he was getting here,” Regier said. “We looked at the opportunity that we were going to be able to provide him and didn’t think it was going to be suitable for him.”
Chadd Cassidy was announced as the new head coach of the Rochester Americans during the press conference. Cassidy originally joined the Amerks as an assistant coach prior to the 2011-12 season under Ron Rolston. He took over as interim head coach on Feb. 20 when Rolston was promoted to coach the Sabres.
Chris Taylor will join Cassidy as an assistant coach and one more assistant will be added in the future.
“[Cassidy has] got an opportunity with a good-looking team coming in there next year into Rochester. They’ll do a great job,” Rolston said. “He and [Taylor] really do a good job in developing players and that’s what we’re looking for.”