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Sabres Central

Sabres acquire Audette and Heinze to bolster powerplay
By Rick Anderson
March 13, 2001

The Buffalo Sabres made a couple of deals that could vastly improve their weak power play and add a needed scoring touch to the lineup when they made last minute trades that brought Donald Audette and Steve Heinze to Buffalo. Audette was the big surprise as he was traded a few years ago when he went through a similar contract dispute that Michael Peca went through this season. In Audette's case, he was traded to Los Angeles and became a prolific scorer in the past few years. In Peca's case, he was not traded and will sit out the remainder of the year.

The Sabres got Audette from the Atlanta Thrashers in exchange for a fourth round draft choice and prospect center Kamil Piros. From the expansion Columbus Blue Jackets, the Sabres acquired Heinze, a 10-year veteran, who has scored 22 goals and has 20 assists so far this season. To get Heinze, the Sabres gave the Blue Jackets for a third round draft choice.

It comes full circle for Audette. He was in a very similar situation that Peca found himself in and was frustrated with the Sabres negotiating process. He finally was traded to the Kings for a 2nd round draft choice. Now the Sabres get their old gunner for a. Audette has 32 goals and 71 total points.

"Both Donald and Steve give us two proven goal scorers,'' Sabres general manager Darcy Regier said. "Their experience in power play ability will help us tremendously as we head into the playoffs."

The power play has been the specialty of both new Sabres. Audette has hit the back of the net 13 times while his Thrashers had the man advantage this season, while Heinze has 14 powerplay goals. The Sabres, who started off this season with a robust powerplay, have now fallen to the bottom of the league in that department as they were last season. With Audette and Heinze joining Dave Andreychuk and JP Dumont, the Sabres are hopeful that they can revive their anaemic power play.

Peca, meanwhile is not very happy with the way the Sabres negotiated with him from the beginning.

"This is a case where there was never a serious intention from the Sabres in negotiations from the outset and that hurt me a lot," fumed Peca. "I think it is pretty clear that they were determined to teach me a lesson in some respects. I think there was a lot of pressure from the league to try to get that message across."

"We're very disappointed," chipped in Peca's agent Don Meehan.

When it appeared that the negotiations were going nowhere with the Sabres, Peca asked to be traded in October. Later he would tell the team to give his captaincy away.

Peca was asking for a four-year contract for $14 million. The Sabres offered Peca a 4-year $11.5 million deal. The two sides never budged from there.

"We're going to sit down and reflect on our course of action from here on in," described Meehan, "and we'll do that within the next week or so."

As a restricted free agent, Peca could possibly sit as long as 4 years before he can officially become an unrestricted free agent. He would be 31 years old and definitely not in playing condition if that were to happen.

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