It seems the 26 and 30 jerseys will be on the ice at Sabres training camp this year after all.
With each day that passes, Buffalo General Manager Darcy Regier believes more and more that forward Thomas Vanek and goalie Ryan Miller will be a part of the Sabres’ team that enters camp.
Regier met the media Friday between periods of the Sabres’ development camp Blue-Gold scrimmage. He answered questions regarding those two stars who appear to be on the block, the Rochester Americans’ head coach, Henrik Tallinder, Nathan Gerbe and more.
One thing he did not announce or address, however, appeared on the Sabres’ Twitter account at 8:40 p.m.: The team signed its first draft pick, defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen (No. 8 overall), to an entry-level deal.
Ristolainen had made some noise Wednesday, the first day of development camp, when he said he did not think he would play for Rochester but only for Buffalo or his hometown team in Finland. The deal does not guarantee he will play for the Sabres this year, but it does indicate they want him to do so.
“We felt that it was important to get Rasmus under contract quickly so that we could start the development process right away,” Regier said in a news release issued by the team Friday evening. “He’s a very mature defenseman for his age and will have every chance to compete for a roster spot in training camp.”
It appears Miller and Vanek will be around in training camp, too.
“I think that the nature of this business is that as we move through July, lineups get more and more settled and there’s less movement,” Regier said. “Once training camp starts, things begin to change some again.”
Regier also confirmed, however, that he has had discussions with teams interested in trading for Vanek and Miller and he has not begun contract negotiations with either player’s agent. Both are slated to become unrestricted free agents in 2014, as is Steve Ott, with whom Regier also said there have been no negotiations.
Regier announced Rochester’s head coach will be Chadd Cassidy, who became the Amerks’ interim coach in place of Ron Rolston in February.
What about Cassidy impressed Regier?
“His poise, composure, steadiness, his ability to relate to the players, communicate with the players, his understanding of the game,” Regier said. “I talked to some of the older players like Matt Ellis. Matt Ellis had only very good things to say about him and how he did in that situation.”
The GM said the decision to bring back Tallinder had much to do with the Sabres trading away veterans at the trade deadline, a reference to the departures of Jordan Leopold and Robyn Regehr, and their desire to bring back an experienced blue-liner.
Some had postulated that Buffalo brought Tallinder back to town to aid the struggling Tyler Myers, with whom he paired so well during Myers’ Calder Trophy-winning season of 2009-10. Regier said he hopes the addition of the 34-year-old defenseman will help Myers, but that isn’t the reason the Sabres acquired Tallinder from the New Jersey Devils.
“We didn’t go into this reacquiring Hank, as he’s known, specifically for Tyler, but I think it can and could help him,” Regier said.
Regier had not talked publicly since the Sabres waived Gerbe on July 3. Regier said the team did not decide to buy out the 5-foot-5 forward’s contract until a couple of days before it happened. Gerbe, who had 10 points in 42 games last year, will turn 26 on July 24.
“We didn’t have any intentions of buying him out initially, but speaking with his agent over 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 and we actually looked at the possibility of sending him to the minors because of the number of forwards we had,” but decided a buyout was the better choice.
As for if the Sabres are still considering any NHL free agents, Regier said, “just lightly right now.”
The Blue-Gold scrimmage ended in a 6-3 victory for the Blue team. Right wing Nicholas Baptiste had two goals and West Seneca native Alex Lepkowski had a goal and an assist.
“We want this young core of guys to push,” Rolston said after the game. “We’ll see. I think they’ve worked hard so far this summer. We want competitiveness in camp and I think we’re going to get it.”