BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -The Sabres vowed to keep high-scoring forward Thomas Vanek
, saying Friday they will match the seven-year, $50 million offer sheet he received from the Edmonton Oilers.
At a news conference soon after Vanek's agent went public with the Oilers' offer, Sabres general manager Darcy Regier said the team will match it - backing up a previous commitment not to risk losing another top player after losing co-captains Daniel Briere and Chris Drury to free-agency on Sunday.
Briere signed an eight-year, $52 million contract with Philadelphia, and Drury signed a five-year, $35.25 million deal with the New York Rangers. They were key members of a Sabres team that won an NHL-best 105 games the past two seasons but was eliminated in the conference finals both times.
Vanek led Buffalo this past season with 43 goals and had 84 points. Buffalo's first-round pick in the 2003 draft, Vanek's 68 goals and 132 points rank third among second-year NHLers - trailing only Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and Washington's Alexander Ovechkin.
The Oilers would have owed Buffalo four first-round draft picks if they signed Vanek. Draft pick compensation is based on the offer's average annual salary. Four first-round picks is the maximum compensation, and required for any team that makes an offer of more than $5 million a year.