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Sabres Central

The Dominator for one more year!
By Rick Anderson
February 14, 2000

The Dominator is staying for one more year! That was the announcement Monday afternoon when the Sabres had a big press conference to make the announcement. Sabres' general manager Darcy Regier presided over the proceedings and made it know that the Sabres have no intention of trading Hasek now that his intentions are known.

Hasek, who has missed 40 games (around half a season) so far this season because of his groin tear, decided that ending his career in such an injury-riddled year was not up to his standards. To Hasek, nothing less than perfect is acceptable. That applies to his game, that applies to his life.

He's back for another year

"When I made the (retirement) announcement I didn't expect to be out for half the season," said Hasek . "I expected to have a full, good season for the Buffalo Sabres. What happened in the beginning of the season was a bad thing for me and that's why I changed my mind."

The Sabres have been struggling all season without Hasek. In fact, they were struggling WITH Hasek at the beginning of the year as the Dominator only won one game before going down with his famous groin tear. With the Sabres now three games below .500 and two points out of the eighth and final playoff position in the Eastern Conference, now is the time for the Sabres to go for that final surge to make the playoffs. Hasek hopes he can get them there.

"My goal is to help the team get to the playoffs," Hasek said. "I believe I will be back in the best shape again to do the best for the Sabres."

The five-time Vezina Trophy conqueror and two-time Hart Trophy winner, Hasek was gearing himself to play in his fifth straight All-Star game. But after his first game against Anaheim a couple weeks ago, he came up sore and stiff the next day. He decided to forgo the All-Star game in order to properly rest his groin. Last week Hasek was able to play in 3 games in 6 days, thus proving that he's ready for prime time again. The Dominator, who has always had that cloak & dagger mystique, announced in Prague last July that he would retire after this season so that his children could grow up in the Czech culture and learn the language more. After a couple months of leaks and hints about him changing his mind, Hasek finally made it official Monday. "When I changed my decision I discussed everything with my wife and we decided to do it this way," said Hasek. "It was a tough decision. My son was the thing we talked about most. We can help him and a tutor can help him so when we go back to Czech he can adjust to life and to the culture on the other continent." "This isn't the way Dom wanted to go out," Hasek's agent, Rich Winter said. "There is no focus on individual awards. He wants to go out strong. He always felt Buffalo treated him very well. He always had that kind of loyalty. He felt the obligation to give what he could for the purposes of winning the [Stanley] Cup before he retired. The injuries threw a wrench into that, that's why he's reconsidering." Hasek was asked if he remembered saying last year that if the Sabres were ever to attempt to trade him that he would retire. Hasek replied that he could not remember saying that, but the reporter on the scene said that it was he who he told that to. Then Hasek was asked if he still felt the same way about being traded. "No doubt, certain things in your life you cannot control and it's certain decisions that are difficult sometimes," he said. "I am proud to be part of this organization. With respect to teammates and fans, it is not easy to be here after what I said in the summer." Thus, Hasek has left the door open a crack to a possible trade. Dominik has been proclaimed as the best goaltender of all time by some. He definitely is the richest. He is scheduled to make $9.25 million both this season and next. The cash-strapped Sabres will have to decide whether they can afford to keep him one more year or opt to trade his huge salary to lighten the load and make room to acquire a couple goal scorers that the team desperately needs. Regier emphatically stated that the Sabres have never discussed trading Hasek with any team. "Rumors are just that and there have certainly been a lot out there," asserted Regier. "I have had no discussions about trading him. We have no intention of trading Dominik Hasek. One thing that's important is that we don't get ahead of ourselves. As far as expansion, those are things we will deal with in the future as they come." Martin Biron, the 22-year old rookie, has been manning the pipes for the Sabres in Hasek's absence. He posted a league-leading 5 shutouts and an 2.34 GAA with a .911 save percentage. During the 38 games he's played this season, Biron is over .500 with a 19-15-2 record. The past few weeks, the Sabres' candidate for NHL Rookie of the Year has been getting even better, probably with the knowledge that Hasek was getting healthy and his playing time would soon be limited. Biron made the save of the Millennium on Saturday against the Flyers. He was caught out of the crease and made a flying save on a shot by Andy Delmore as he dove and hit the puck out of the air with his stick. Now, Biron may be watching from the bench for most of the season as he studies the Master at his game.

Next season two new expansion teams join the NHL: the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild. That leaves the Sabres with the problem of protecting one or two goalies. Dwayne Roloson was going to be the one goalie exposed if Hasek retired. Now that he's staying, it complicates

matters. "We were going to lose two players, regardless," Regier said. "It might not be the best financial situation to protect both goaltenders, but it would be a good decision."

The next question will be how Biron will handle all of this. He probably knew that his day in the sun would end as soon as Hasek stepped back into the nets. Now that day has arrived and Biron, who has had an excellent year as a rookie, must ride the pine for a bit. The Sabres have the option to send him to Rochester and may just do that so that he can keep sharp. If that scenario happens, Roloson would be the second string goalie. As it is, Roloson has already asked to be traded when Hasek first came back a couple weeks ago. However, the Sabres are likely to keep him as expansion bait.

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