Tom Golisano plans to announce Thursday he has sold the Buffalo Sabres to Pennsylvania billionaire Terrence Pegula, which will kick off a month of change for the NHL team.
Most of the change, though, will come on the labour side of the equation, since Sabres general manager Darcy Regier made it clear last week he hopes to ship out several veterans by the NHL trade deadline on Feb. 28.
Those who would be well-advised to get their affairs in order are forwards Tim Connolly, Mike Grier and Rob Niedermayer and defencemen Craig Rivet and Steve Montador. All will be unrestricted free agents this summer, and their current salaries range from $1.15-million (Niedermayer) to $4.5-million (Connolly, all currency U.S.).
On the management side, the only changes in the near-term will be the departure of minority owner and managing partner Larry Quinn. He may be a polarizing figure in Buffalo thanks to his two tours of duty with the Sabres, which go back to 1996 and involved much drama in the Ted Nolan-John Muckler-Dominik Hasek days, but Quinn can take a bow for the fact the franchise is still in Buffalo.
Thanks to his work for Golisano in steering the Sabres out of bankruptcy in 2003, Quinn was rewarded, along with chief operating officer Dan DiPofi, who is also expected to take his leave, with a minority share of the team.
Quinn, who has a deep passion for hockey and is regarded as one of the NHL's most-progressive executives, did not have any choice in selling once Golisano decided to cash out his majority stake, as Pegula will bring in his own executives.
The sale price is said to be $175-million plus another $14-million in financial liabilities Pegula will assume, which is not bad considering Golisano paid just a little more than $60-million in cash when he bought the Sabres in March of 2003. Quinn, who will get around $14-million as a parting gift, said Monday he would like to stay involved in hockey, perhaps at the amateur level.
Regier's long-term future will be subject to a review of the team's operations by Pegula, but it is certain he will be around to pare down the Sabres' $54.9-million payroll by the trade deadline. He was unable to be reached for comment Monday, but said last week there are several veterans on the team who are not pulling their weight.
The Sabres come out of the all-star break six points out of the eighth and last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. However, they are on a 9-3-1 streak and Regier thinks the team's hopes rest on the younger players.
"We're getting a lot of pop out of our young kids," he told ESPN.com. "Older players that we all believed in when we signed them aren't performing at the levels that they're capable of, or maybe we misjudged it.
"In some part, I think we could be selling veterans if we can sell them because we like what we see in our youth. I think it's going to be really interesting."
Things will also be interesting north of the border in Ontario.
Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray is in the final months of his tenure and one of his last jobs will be to send just about anyone not named Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza or Erik Karlsson packing.
In Toronto, Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke expects to hear from defenceman Tomas Kaberle's agent, Rick Curran, this week about a decision on the player's no-move clause in his contract. If Kaberle finally decides he is ready to accept a trade, Burke will get a list of acceptable teams, which is expected to have just two or three Eastern Conference teams on it thanks to Kaberle's aversion to leaving Toronto.
This, of course, will greatly limit the chances of Kaberle moving.
For example, it means Burke likely will not be able to ship him to the San Jose Sharks, who are looking for a top-four defenceman and are said to be disenchanted with 24-year-old forward Devin Setoguchi, whose production slipped this season.
A more likely candidate for San Jose is Leafs defenceman François Beauchemin, who has a partial no-trade clause in his contract. Burke, who wasn't talking Monday, is said to have a list from Beauchemin of 12 teams he would not mind as a new employer.Report Typo/Error