LAST SEASON 43-29-10 (7th in East); lost in first round to Flyers
KEY ADDITIONS D Christian Ehrhoff, C Ville Leino, D Robyn Regehr
KEY LOSSES C Tim Connolly, RW Mike Grier, C Rob Niedermayer
NEW SABRES OWNER Terry Pegula seems to be gunning for MVP—Most Valuable Proprietor. He paid for an $8 million dressing room upgrade and a $3 million dehumidification system to improve the quality of the ice at HSBC Arena. He also laid new carpets and splashed paint throughout the rink. But cosmetics aside, he and G.M. Darcy Regier also acquired some actual hockey players during the off-season, trading for defenseman Robyn Regehr and signing (and overpaying, to the tune of $67 million) free-agent defenseman Christian Ehrhoff and forward Ville Leino, whom coach Lindy Ruff will shift from wing to center.
"Those free-agent signings happened so fast, I was in shock almost," says defenseman Tyler Myers, who, courtesy of Pegula's largesse, signed a seven-year, $38.5 million extension. "That shows how things are changing in Buffalo. It's becoming a place where guys want to play."
Pegula has also subtracted: He took away excuses, a cherished Buffalo tradition. Instead of the small-market plaints that suffuse the city, the well-heeled Sabres are now obliged to focus on making a deep playoff push, and possibly winning the franchise's first Stanley Cup. That day, however, may still be a few years away.
COACH Ron Wilson (4th season)
LAST SEASON 37-34-11 (10th in East)