The Future Looks Good
Whether or not the Sabres upset the Stars in the Stanley Cup finals, which began on Tuesday, Buffalo is undeniably the NHL's organization of the year. In addition to the Sabres having reached the finals with a relatively modest $28 million payroll ( Dallas's tab: $42 million), their American Hockey League affiliate, the Rochester Americans, is in the Calder Cup finals against the Providence Bruins. "We're thrilled by Rochester's success because it's essential," says Buffalo general manager Darcy Regier. "We're intent on keeping our food chain alive."
The Sabres, a money-losing team, must rely on talent development rather than free agency to upgrade its roster. In Buffalo's 4-2 series-clinching win over the Maple Leafs in the Eastern Conference finals last week, each Sabres goal was scored by a Rochester alumnus: Curtis Brown, Vaclav Varada, Erik Rasmussen and Dixon Ward. This year's Americans have several top prospects, including 21-year-old goalie Martin Biron (AHL-best 2.07 goals-against average) and 20-year-old defenseman Cory Sarich. Given Rochester's achievements, expect the Sabres to be Cup contenders for years to come.