Buffalo Sabres goalie prospect Cal Petersen announced Wednesday he will forego his final season of NCAA eligibility with Notre Dame and sign a pro contact this summer.
Now, does that mean Petersen, 22, will sign with the Sabres, who drafted him in the fifth round, 129th overall, in 2013? Not necessarily.
The Sabres have 30 days to sign Petersen, one of the NCAA’s best goalies and the Fighting Irish’s captain, or they lose his rights. A press release from Notre Dame stated Petersen “could sign with the Sabres or become a free agent later this summer.”
“This is the hardest decision I have ever had to make because of how incredible of a place Notre Dame is to be both a student and an athlete,” Petersen said in a statement.
Petersen knows Buffalo well, having participated in four development camps. The lefty also spent time with Sabres star Jack Eichel on Team USA at the World Championship earlier this spring.
Before former Sabres general manager Tim Murray was fired April 20, he said Petersen could start for the AHL Rochester Americans next season.
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.
While Petersen could be coming to Buffalo, the Sabres could pass on signing center prospect Giorgio Estephan.
NHL teams have until 5 p.m. today to ink their 2015 non-collegiate draft picks to entry-level contracts.
Letting go Estephan, 20, would be a bit curious. He just enjoyed a big season with the Lethbridge Hurricanes, scoring 35 goals and 89 points in 68 games. He added 11 goals and 24 points in 18 playoff contests.
The 6-foot, 197-pound Estephan played four full junior seasons in the Western Hockey League, compiling 101 goals and 239 points in 258 appearances.
The Sabres selected Estephan in the sixth round, 152nd overall, two years ago. Of course, he was drafted by Murray. Jason Botterill is now GM.
The Sabres could also pass on signing forward Gustav Possler, a fifth-round pick, 130th overall, in 2013. Possler 22, had two goals and four points in 21 games with Djurgardens IF, a Swedish Elite League team, in 2016-17.
The Sabres made one addition Wednesday, signing goalie prospect Jonas Johansson to a three-year, entry-level contract.
Johansson, 21, played seven AHL late-season games in 2016-17 on a tryout with the Amerks, going 3-3-1 with a 2.85 goals-against average and an .892 save percentage.
The 6-foot-4, 204-pound Johansson mostly spent the last three seasons developing with Almtuna IS, a second-tier team in his native Sweden. The 2014 third-round pick, 61st overall, has also occasionally earned recalls to the SHL, the country’s highest league.
Johansson played 37 games before going to Rochester, posting strong numbers – 17-18-0, 2.26, .912 and three shutouts – as Almtuna’s starter.