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Sabres Central

Sabres ready to roll when season resumes

By Rick Anderson
July 23, 2005

The Buffalo Sabres are ready to face the Brave New NHL with a new sense of optimism. After years of watching other teams outspend and out produce them, the Sabres are now geared and ready to roar out of the gates come the start of October.

With the new CBA signed, sealed and delivered, the Sabres have as much a chance to successfully compete for the Stanley Cup as even teams like the Red Wings or the Avs. The newly signed CBA will allow small market teams like Buffalo a chance they havenít seen in about 20 years. While it is believed the Sabres will have a salary base around $28 million, they have been wise in the past keeping their salaries within what they believed would be the new salary cap. They have more players signed (around 9) than most of the big market teams that are facing difficult decisions in the next few weeks in buying out big contracts of stars on their teams.

Also, it is believed that they have the rights to 15 restricted free agents. So in all, the Sabres are in one of the best positions of any team getting ready for the upcoming new season.

Most fans hope that the team doesn't stand pat with tons of super star free agents floating around in the NHL Ebay auction that will take place once all the other teams buyout a lot of their fat cats. With the Sabres possibly losing Miro Satan and Alexei Zhitnik, they will have even more room under the cap to get a decent player or two which will fill the holes left by their departure.

The past five year the Sabres have been the doormats of the NHL. With the frugal John Rigas-Darcy Regier connection, the Sabres cut, slashed and got rid of anyone who had a decent salary. They went with the youth and the players willing to play for less than the norm. The team struggled and has missed the playoffs since 2000.

There have been signs of a better future. The Rochester American, staffed with future Sabres and a few who had actually played a lot the year before with the parent team, finished first overall in the AHL last season. They did fall to the Manitoba Moose in the second round, but players like Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy and Ryan Miller will be making huge contributions to the Sabres this upcoming season.

Larry Quinn, the managing partner for Sabres owner Tom Golisano, thinks the future looks bright for the Sabres.

"In theory, it makes this franchise viable - a franchise that can stand on its two legs and last forever, said Quinn about the new CBA."

Quinn talked about how the Sabres lowered their prices to make Buffalo the most affordable place to view a hockey game in the NHL.

"You have to treat your season-ticket holders as your best customers," insisted Quinn. "We didn't treat them right. We were a lot like the airlines: We took our most loyal customers and made them pay the highest price."

"To me, the most telling thing is you can be in a center-ice lower-level seat for $49 . That seat would cost upwards of $200 in Toronto or New York."

With the lowest ticket prices in the NHL along with a team that is young and hungry, this could be one of the most exciting seasons for Buffalo in years. Stay tuned for the upcoming Sabres developments.

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