Free Agency Time

Kyle Okposo was sold on Buffalo early. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – The conversation lasted maybe 15 minutes. General manager Tim Murray wanted to gauge Kyle Okposo’s interest, and the free agent wanted to hear what the Sabres could offer him.

When Murray began telling him how underrated the city is, Okposo stopped him and said he knows all about Buffalo and likes it. The nine-year veteran wanted to learn more about the organization.

So after Murray talked about the Sabres and the bright future he envisions, Okposo hung up the phone …

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Kyle Okposo cashed in early in free agency. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Winger Kyle Okposo, arguably the best free agent available, signed a seven-year, $42 million contract with the Sabres shortly after the market opened this afternoon, according to multiple reports.

The signing is significant. Just 15 months removed from their second consecutive 30th-place finish, the Sabres, who improved 27 points last season, secured a strong talent to play beside centers Jack Eichel or Ryan O’Reilly.

Okposo is coming off a 22-goal, 64-point season with the New York Islanders. He has 139 …

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Kyle Okposo will sign a lucrative contract. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – The pickings are so slim in NHL free agency this year, perhaps the most coveted player available, Kyle Okposo, has never cracked the 30-goal or 70-point marks.

Okposo, of course, is a talented winger. The Minnesota native is coming off a 22-goal, 64-point season with the New York Islanders. He has 139 goals and 369 points in 529 NHL games over nine years, including three 20-goal seasons and two 60-point campaigns.

Yes, Okposo has been productive over the years. But …

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Jake McCabe (left) battles St. Louis' David Backes last season. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – The Sabres have re-signed defenseman Jake McCabe to a three-year, $4.8 million contract extension, according to multiple reports.

McCabe, 22, would have become a restricted free agent Friday.

The Wisconsin native played his first full NHL season in 2015-16, compiling four goals, 14 points, 51 penalty minutes and a plus-6 rating in 77 games.

The Sabres drafted McCabe 44th overall in 2012.

Update: The Sabres have also re-signed Williamsville native Cole Schneider to a one-year, two-way contract, the team announced tonight. The …

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Alexander Nylander could wear a Sabres jersey again later in 2016. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Anyone unfamiliar with Alexander Nylander’s talents will immediately notice the speed the talented Swedish prospect possesses. The high-scoring winger the Sabres were thrilled to draft eighth overall last week might be one of the fastest skaters on the planet.

But Nylander, 18, doesn’t simply freewheel around the ice. The youngster utilizes his breakaway speed by changing it like Calgary star Johnny Gaudreau, said James Richmond, one of Nylander’s coaches with the Ontario Hockey League’s Mississauga Steelheads.

Nylander might be skating …

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Casey Nelson signs his jersey for a fan in April. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – The Sabres have signed defenseman Casey Nelson, who joined the NHL straight from the NCAA in March, to a two-year contract extension, the team announced today.

The deal is worth $650,000 per season, according to generalfanager.com. Nelson, 23, would have become a restricted free agent Friday.

The Wisconsin native compiled four assists in seven NHL contests last season. The Sabres signed him as a free agent after he completed his junior season at Minnesota State University, where he scored 14 …

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Zemgus Girgensons and the Sabres open the preseason schedule Sept. 26 against Minnesota. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Five of the Sabres’ seven preseason games this year are away from the First Niagara Center, including four neutral-site contests, the team announced this morning.

The Sabres start the exhibition slate Sept. 26 against the Minnesota Wild at Penn State University, the first pro game at the arena funded by a $102 million donation by Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula.

The game was moved from Rochester because the Sabres believe the Blue Cross War Memorial doesn’t meet NHL standards, …

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Dmitri Kulikov thought he would stay in Florida. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – When the Sabres examined defenseman Dmitri Kulikov as a potential trade target, the team’s decision-makers studied video of the Florida Panthers’ first-round playoff series.

While the Panthers lost to the lower-seeded New York Islanders in six games, Kulikov’s performance wowed them. In critical tilts, the Russian thrived playing a No. 1 shutdown role against the Isles’ top talent.

Those outings helped convince the Sabres they needed to pursue the Russian, who believes he found something extra in himself to “push …

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Dmitri Kulikov is excited by his new opportunity. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – When the Florida Panthers acquired Keith Yandle’s rights last week, Dmitri Kulikov was initially excited the team had an offensive defenseman in its arsenal.

But three days later, the Panthers signed Yandle to a seven-year, $44.45 million contract. With the NHL Draft just a day away, Kulikov, 25, said he was starting to have doubts he would stay in Florida.

“I was comfortable in Florida,” Kulikov, who was traded to the Sabres on Saturday at the draft, said this afternoon …

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Mark Pysyk figured he was in the Sabres' plans. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
By Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Fresh off his first full NHL season, Mark Pysyk figured he was in the Sabres’ long-term plans. With the defenseman skating regular minutes in 55 games, the team improved 27 points, moving from last overall to 23rd.

“I wasn’t really banking on anything happening,” Pysyk told the Times Herald by phone Sunday.

Then Saturday morning, as Pysyk slept, his phone began lighting up with calls and texts. Eventually, his fiancé informed him the Sabres had just traded him to the …

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