CHICAGO – Forget about former Notre Dame goalie Cal Petersen joining the Buffalo Sabres. The 22-year-old prospect, who left school last month, will elect for free agency, general manager Jason Botterill told reporters this morning.
“I don’t believe he’ll be signing with the Buffalo Sabres,” Botterill said hours before the first round of the NHL Draft.
Botterill said he knew he could lose Petersen, a fifth-round pick in 2013, because he didn’t draft him.
“I enjoyed interacting with him,” Botterill said. “I think he’s a very professional young man. I certainly wish him all the best in his career and stuff, but we always knew that was a possibility. Disappointed, but we’ll move on.”
Petersen can become a free agent July 1.
Before former Sabres GM Tim Murray was fired April 20, he said Petersen could start for the AHL Rochester Americans next season.
The Sabres, of course, can trade Petersen’s rights. Murray acquired winger Jimmy Vesey’s rights a year ago after the Harvard product refused to sign with the Nashville Predators. Vesey, however, elected for free agency and signed with the New York Rangers.
Petersen enjoyed a terrific junior season in 2016-17, going 23-12-5 with a 2.22 goals-against average, .926 save percentage and six shutouts in 40 games. Notre Dame reached the semifinal of the NCAA tournament.
The Iowan ended his college career with 90 consecutive starts, the fourth-longest streak in NCAA history. Overall, he went 55-39-15 with a 2.30 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage in 110 games over three seasons.
The Sabres still have at least one strong goalie prospect in Linus Ullmark, an AHL All-Star with 21 games of NHL experience.
Botterill swung a side deal with Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee to leave the unprotected Ullmark and some other players alone in Wednesday’s NHL Expansion Draft. Botterill believes the price – he exposed winger William Carrier and sent a sixth-round pick – was worth it.
“Certainly did not want to lose Will, a young player that brought energy we wanted to continue to develop,” Botterill said. “But it’s an expansion draft. You’re going to lose a good player. It was a scenario where after the conversations I thought it was worth putting a sixth-round pick to protect some other players on our roster.”
Botterill said he would like to draft a goalie this weekend.
“There’s always a situation in the draft where you’re trying to find a goaltender, but you don’t want to force the issue with it,” he said. “There’s a couple goalies we feel comfortable with.”
With Petersen out of the picture and Ullmark possibly ready for some NHL duty next season, Botterill probably has to acquire another established goalie for Rochester.