Chad Johnson spent last season in Calgary. ©2017, Hickling Images, Olean Times Herald

Sabres face challenges adding talent in free agency

BUFFALO – For a team fresh off a last-place finish, the Sabres have a high number of contracts, including a few bloated ones, in place for next season.

Counting restricted free agents expected to be back, the Sabres already have about 19 players who could be regulars in 2017-18. Veterans Zach Bogosian, Josh Gorges and Matt Moulson combine for more than $14 million of salary cap space.

Bad teams usually don’t approach the cap, but ... Read the full article

George McPhee can stock Vegas with strong talent. ©2017, Hickling Images, Olean Times Herald

NHL Expansion Draft has evolved; Sabres could lose William Carrier

BUFFALO – Seventeen years ago, as president and general manager of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Doug MacLean spent almost a year preparing for the NHL Expansion Draft.

“Hundreds and hundreds of hours went into it,” MacLean, now an analyst for Sportsnet, told the Times Herald by phone Saturday.... Read the full article

Nathan Beaulieu was a healthy scratch in April. ©2017, Hickling Images, Olean Times Herald

Nathan Beaulieu excited for fresh opportunity with Sabres

BUFFALO – Officially, defenseman Nathan Beaulieu’s six-year tenure in Montreal’s organization ended Saturday. But the Sabres’ newest acquisition knew almost two months ago he would be leaving the Canadiens.

On April 22, the Canadiens’ healthy scratch of Beaulieu for their final first-round playoff game against the New York Rangers signaled the end.

“That was kind of the cherry on top the situation was over with,” Beaulieu said this afternoon on a conference call. “I ... Read the full article

William Carrier was one of the Sabres' biggest surprises last season. ©2017, Hickling Images, Olean Times Herald

Sabres leave big salaries unprotected for expansion draft

BUFFALO – As expected, the Sabres have left underachieving, high-priced veterans Zach Bogosian and Matt Moulson unprotected for Wednesday’s NHL Expansion Draft.

But they also left winger William Carrier, perhaps the Sabres’ biggest surprise as a rookie last season, unprotected for the Vegas Golden Knights, according to a list the league released this morning. Could that move be a side deal general manager Jason Botterill worked out with counterpart George McPhee to lay off ... Read the full article

Dan Bylsma lasted two seasons as coach. ©2017, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres start over again by firing GM Tim Murray, coach Dan Bylsma

BUFFALO – Now what? In a stunning move, general manager Tim Murray and coach Dan Bylsma are gone, victims of the Sabres’ last-place finish.

Tanking, gutting the roster and starting from scratch were supposed to transform the Sabres into perennial contenders.

Instead, they’ve remained a laughingstock. So on Thursday, 11 days after the Sabres completed a disappointing 78-point season in which they regressed, owner Terry Pegula fired Murray and Bylsma.

Obviously, missing the playoffs by ... Read the full article

Dan Bylmsa could have an ultimatum next season. ©2017, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Dan Bylsma, players take blame for Sabres’ poor season

BUFFALO – Two seasons removed from a deep rebuild, the Sabres never expected to be a Stanley Cup contender, coach Dan Bylsma said.

Still, they never thought they would rank among the NHL’s bottom-feeders again.

Instead of building off their 27-point improvement in 2015-16, they imploded down the stretch this season, finishing last in the Atlantic Division and missing the playoffs – their big goal – by a whopping 17 points.... Read the full article

Rasmus Ristolainen is happy he can play again. ©2017, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres ready to welcome Rasmus Ristolainen back to lineup

BUFFALO – In 74 games this season, defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen has averaged just under 27 minutes of playing time, the Sabres’ highest total. All together, the workhorse has spent almost 2,000 minutes on the ice in his fourth NHL campaign.

So while a three-game suspension for hitting Pittsburgh’s Jake Guentzel disappointed Ristolainen, 22, the short break from the rigors of a long year was welcomed.

“I got a good rest,” Ristolainen said of his absence. ... Read the full article

Brian Gionta scored his 289th NHL goal Monday. ©2017, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres reward captain Brian Gionta with win over Panthers

BUFFALO – In the days leading to Brian Gionta’s 1,000th NHL game, the Sabres were a little nervous, even “walking on eggshells,” coach Dan Bylsma said.

No one wanted to talk about their captain’s milestone.

“Didn’t want to jinx it, so to speak,” Bylsma said after Gionta fittingly scored the winning goal in Monday’s 4-2 win against the Florida Panthers.

But the Sabres loosened up, and following an emotional pregame ceremony honoring Gionta’s achievement, ... Read the full article

Brian Gionta played his first NHL game Dec. 30, 2001. ©2017, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

1,000-game milestone special for Sabres captain Brian Gionta

BUFFALO – Over his 15 NHL seasons, Sabres captain Brian Gionta has seen plenty of players hit the prestigious 1,000-game mark, one of hockey’s toughest milestones.

But one time still stands out vividly.

As a member of the Montreal Canadiens, Gionta’s teammate, defenseman Hal Gill, played his 1,000th game early in 2011-12. Apparently, Gionta, then a 32-year-old in his 10th season, thought his friend was ancient.

“At the time, I thought, ‘Holy crap, that guy’s ... Read the full article

Rasmus Ristolainen (left) fights Toronto's James van Riemsdyk on Feb. 11. ©2017, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Rasmus Ristolainen’s suspension surprises Sabres

BUFFALO – Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen never expected he would be suspended for hitting Pittsburgh rookie Jake Guentzel in the head Tuesday. Coach Dan Bylsma never expected the ban would be so long.

But in the end, the Sabres will be without their No. 1 defenseman and arguably best player for the next three games, starting with tonight’s home tilt against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“I didn’t expect anything,” Ristolainen said Friday following practice ... Read the full article