PITTSBURGH – With Sam Reinhart sent back to junior Friday, Buffalo Sabres general manager Tim Murray can concentrate on another teenage prospect, defenseman Nikita Zadorov.
“I don’t want to start juggling five balls,” Murray said inside the First Niagara Center.
The Sabres have essentially been stashing Zadorov on their roster until they find a place for him to play. The 19-year-old has played only one of the first 11 games.
Since Zadorov doesn’t have a release from his Russian team, the Sabres lose control of him for the rest of the season if they send him back to the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights.
“I just haven’t come to a decision on that,” Murray said about Zadorov’s future. “It could be tomorrow, it could be three weeks. I guess I’ll start thinking more about that now.”
Zadorov’s situation is very unique.
“I just know he stays here for us or we assign him to London, and after that, we won’t be involved, we can’t be involved,” Murray said. “We’ve tried every avenue, and we’ve been shut down at every avenue.”
Murray said verbal agreements and other things – “Stuff that’s way out of our hands,” he said – haven’t helped.
London GM Mark Hunter calls every day about Zadorov, Murray said. The Knights want the No. 16 pick in 2013 back.
Of course, the AHL would be the ideal place for Zadorov to develop. But Canadian Hockey League players can’t play in the AHL until their junior eligibility runs out.
Murray, like a lot of GMs, wants to see that rule changed.
“Nothing against junior hockey, I grew up watching it, know a lot of people in the game,” he said. “There are certain players that are beyond that.”
Murray wants prospects to receive an AHL trial similar to the nine-game trial the NHL gives youngsters before their contract kicks in.
“The schedule Zadorov’s on here, the 20 games in the American Hockey League would’ve been a lot quicker, right?” Murray said. “They’re not going to agree to anything like that. They have to protect their franchise. They feel that they sell tickets based on stars coming back. I understand that. It’s a dilemma for development, and it’s not just me talking about it.”
Sabres coach Ted Nolan said Brian Flynn will play tonight against the Penguins, just the forward’s third game this season. The Sabres don’t plan to recall a player to replace Reinhart, Nolan said.
“We can’t just all of a sudden jump into another young guy and throw him into the same situation,” Nolan said.
Goalie Jhonas Enroth will make his second straight start tonight. Defenseman Tyson Strachan will likely play again, Nolan said. Strachan has been a healthy scratch nine times like Flynn.
Center Tyler Ennis and forward Cody McCormick rested Friday but will play tonight.
Meanwhile, winger Patrick Kaleta, out since taking a puck in the face Sept. 28, has been practicing fully.
“He’s pretty close,” Nolan said. “He’s anxious to get back.”
Former Sabres defenseman Jamie McBain has signed a tryout with the Manchester Monarchs, Los Angeles’ AHL affiliate.