BUFFALO – Sabres winger Kyle Okposo, who was reportedly hospitalized late last season in the neuro surgical intensive care unit at Buffalo General hospital, will be ready for training camp, general manager Jason Botterill said.
“Everything’s looking great for Kyle,” Botterill said Thursday during an introductory news conference for coach Phil Housley inside KeyBank Center. “Physically he looks great, mentally he looks great.”
Okposo, 29, missed the final six games of 2016-17, his first season with the Sabres after signing a seven-year, $42 million contract. He paid immediate dividends, compiling 19 goals and 45 points in 65 appearances.
The Sabres plan to meet with goalie prospect Cal Petersen again next week, Botterill said.
Petersen, 22, recently opted to leave Notre Dame after his junior season. If the Sabres don’t sign the 2013 fifth-round pick by June 30, he will become an unrestricted free agent.
“Coming to the organization (last month), I didn’t have a strong relationship with Cal,” Botterill said. “But I’ve enjoyed our dialogues with him. It’s a situation with the CBA, he has that right (to become a free agent).”
Botterill said he’s open to anything with the Sabres’ first pick, the eighth overall selection, at next Friday’s NHL Draft in Chicago.
“You always have to be open to it,” he said. “My mindset, especially with the high pick, is always taking the best guy available. … Drafting for position in hockey is so difficult. Maybe it goes on a little bit more in other sports such as football. These players are coming two, four years down the road.
“But we’ve tried to have discussions with some teams about moving up, moving back. I think because there’s no set one or two players at the top of the draft you have to be prepared for all outcomes.”
The Sabres will lose a player to the Vegas Golden Knights in next week’s expansion draft. Can Botterill swing a side deal with Vegas GM George McPhee and, say, keep him from taking goalie prospect Linus Ullmark? Botterill couldn’t say if he had an agreement like that with his counterpart.
“I’ve had conversations with him,” Botterill said. “I think it’s a two-step process. I think we feel comfortable where we’re at right now, even though it could change in the next couple days here. But then there’s the unknown. Once you hand your list over, there’s a whole other market that George could have at with other teams now involved.”
For weeks, Housley and Pittsburgh Penguins assistant Rick Tocchet appeared to be the two leading candidates for the Buffalo job. Then word spread Thursday Botterill never talked to Tocchet, a former NHL star he worked with three years in Pittsburgh.
“Rick is going to be a head coach in the very near future,” Botterill said. “But I just felt it wasn’t a situation where I needed to go through the interview process working with him for three-plus years.”
Tocchet just won his second consecutive Stanley Cup.
Botterill said former coach Dan Bylsma’s assistants are free to talk to other teams. Housley will also speak with them soon.
“We just have to make sure there’s a good fit for Phil,” he said.