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Free Agency
Mark Mancari re-signed with the Sabres in July. ©2012, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – You can’t turn down a one-way contract, Mark Mancari said. No way. Not when you’ve been making around $50,000 most of your career in the minors.

So when the Vancouver Canucks guaranteed him $525,000 as free agency opened in 2011, the high-scoring winger left the Sabres organization after six seasons.

“You go. You don’t think too much about it,” Mancari said Tuesday inside the First Niagara Center prior to the Rochester Americans’ 3-1 win over the Hamilton Bulldogs. “You take …

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Tyler Ennis became a top scorer after switching to center last season. ©2012, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – The eight goals and 19 points Tyler Ennis generated over a rollicking 12-game stretch late last season could just be a harbinger, he believes. The center’s March exploits might’ve signaled the first signs of his impending superstardom.

“I think I’m ready to explode,” Ennis said Sunday, a day after signing a two-year, $5.625 million contract hours before the NHL lockout started.

Of course, Ennis and the Sabres can’t even play right now.

Instead of prepping for training camp this week, Ennis …

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©2012
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – The Sabres finally signed restricted free agent Tyler Ennis on Saturday, hours before the NHL locked out the players at midnight.

When the slick center will begin earning his two-year, $5.625 million contract is unclear. With no negotiations ongoing, the work stoppage could be a long one.

As 12 a.m. loomed, teams went on last-minute spending sprees, awarding more than $61 million in new contracts.

Ennis’ short deal – something Sabres general manager Darcy Regier had said was likely – rewards …

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Jason Pominville can't believe another NHL lockout is imminent. ©2012, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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AMHERST – It’s looming. Barring a major negotiating breakthrough, the NHL plans to lock out its players at midnight Saturday, a sad and stunning end to a collective bargaining agreement under which the league generated record revenues.

Beginning today in Manhattan, at least 10 Buffalo Sabres will be among the 250 or so players attending the NHL Players’ Association meetings. The two sides also reportedly plan to meet again today, a bit of good news.

On Thursday, however, a short walk from …

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©2012
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – The Sabres have re-signed defenseman Alex Biega to a one-year, two-way contract.

The 24-year-old had five goals, 23 points, 47 penalty minutes and a plus-10 rating in 65 games with Rochester last season. The former Harvard University captain has six goals, 41 points, 99 penalty minutes and a plus-28 rating in 126 AHL appearances over two seasons.

The Sabres selected Biega 147th overall in 2006.

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Patrick Kaleta has never shied away from contact. ©2012, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Three years for a rugged, injury-prone winger who’s averaged only 55 games during his four full NHL seasons. Why did the Sabres give Patrick Kaleta, a 26-year-old short on durability, such a long contract?

The team sees growth and maturity seeping into Kaleta’s game. He’s started reigning in the ultra-aggressive, often reckless style he showcased for years.

The Angola native played a career-high 63 contests last season, eight more than his previous best. He earned regular action as a penalty …

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Patrick Kaleta played a career-high 63 games last season. ©2012, Janet Schultz, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – The Sabres re-signed restricted free agent winger Patrick Kaleta to a three-year contract on Tuesday.

The deal is worth $1.25 million a season, according to nhlnumbers.com.

The 26-year-old, the Sabres’ No. 1 pest and a ferocious hitter, has developed into a strong checker capable of playing big minutes. In the winter, he began playing 18 minutes some nights on a top checking line with Paul Gaustad and Nathan Gerbe.

The Angola native rarely stays in the lineup, though. His 63 appearances …

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Drew Schiestel was Portland's top defenseman in 2010-11 before tearing his ACL. ©2012, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – The Sabres re-signed defenseman Drew Schiestel, who fell so far off the depth chart last season the organization loaned him to the Dallas Stars’ AHL affiliate, to a one-year, two-way contract on Wednesday.

The 23-year-old, the 59th overall pick in 2007, hasn’t appeared in the NHL yet.

Schiestel earned an AHL All-Star berth with Portland in 2010-11 and appeared close to receiving a recall. But he tore his ACL, and then hurt his knee on opening last season, his first …

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©2012
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – Last month, Steve Ott and Mike Weber heard a rumor Ott could be joining his close friend with the Sabres. The two laughed, and then resumed working out together at the gym.

The mere thought of Ott coming to Buffalo resonated, however. The gritty forward was cognizant the Dallas Stars might be looking to deal him.

“Could you imagine?” the friends asked each other.

On July 2, about two weeks later, Ott missed a call from Dallas general manager Joe Nieuwendyk …

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Mikhail Grigorenko will compete for an NHL spot during training camp. ©2012, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald
Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – On Wednesday, the day the Sabres signed slick Russian center Mikhail Grigorenko to a three-year, entry-level contract, general manager Darcy Regier encountered a slew of prospects while visiting the players’ lounge inside the First Niagara Center.

Luke Adam, Marcus Foligno and Brayden McNabb, who all impressed during NHL stints last season, are in town working out. So is Grigorenko, the 12th overall pick last month, and 14th pick Zemgus Girgensons, who inked his entry-level deal last week.

“It’s a good …

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