Latest from BOG meetings: Sabres sale rumors and Stars weighing Avery options

December, 8, 2008
PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The NHL's 30 owners and team executives were meeting from 3 to 6 p.m. ET today, but we were able to scrounge up some updates beforehand on two important stories -- the continued saga of Sean Avery and the potential sale of the Buffalo Sabres.

First up ... Sean Avery
Dallas Stars owner Tom Hicks, speaking to us on his way into the meetings, said he would meet with his co-GMs, Brett Hull and Les Jackson, and president Jeff Cogen later this week to discuss the fate of Avery, who is currently serving his six-game suspension for his controversial comments last week.

"We're having a meeting Wednesday afternoon when I get back and I don't want to say too much ahead of that," Hicks said. "But we're going to look at all the alternatives. We're going to have some recommendations from Brett and Les, and Jeff Cogen will participate, as well."

Asked whether Avery had played his last game as a Star, Hicks hesitated.

"I'm not prepared to say that yet because I want to give our guys the respect they deserve to make the recommendations," Hicks said. "But certainly when [coach] Dave Tippett comes out and stakes his claim, it's pretty hard to overcome that. So, I think we'll want to look at everything from what's right for Sean -- not as a hockey player. He's a troubled young man. I think that's going to be our first priority, is what can we do to help him away from hockey."

It's pretty clear in our mind where Hicks stands on the issue when you consider what he said about his coach's comments. Tippett said last week he would find it hard to see Avery back in that dressing room.

Avery is in the first season of a four-year, $15.5 million deal. There have been whispers that Hicks might want to try and void that contract because of Avery's conduct, but the NHL Players' Association would grieve it and sources have told the players' union would probably win out.

"We've got a team of guys doing all that and I'll deal with that Wednesday, too," was all Hicks would say when asked about his legal options.

Now, the Sabres
A story by veteran Buffalo-based hockey writer Jim Kelley had people buzzing here today. Kelley, citing a source, reported Buffalo Sabres majority owner B. Tom Golisano "is actively looking to sell the team."

Larry Quinn, managing partner and minority owner of the Sabres, quickly denied the story.

"We're not shopping for a buyer at all," Quinn told us before the board of governors' meeting. "We listen to things that people say to us, so I would say over the course of the last three years, there's been a number of times where people have called and say, 'I've got this idea or maybe I want to buy, etc.'

"We always listen. But we are not shopping the team and right now we're not selling it."

That's not to say the Sabres will never be sold. As far as we're concerned, every team in the NHL is available -- for the right price.

But, as of right now, Quinn insists they're not looking to sell. That doesn't preclude interested suitors from calling.

"Since the lockout, I would say maybe four or five times people have come to us," Quinn said. "Because, let's face it, we're a club that's done pretty well, we're cash-flow positive. We've been, I think, a financial success. We're in a medium-range market where if someone were interested in joining the league, that would be a team they might be interested in.

"But we have never sought out anybody."

According to Kelley's story, one potential buyer is BlackBerry mogul Jim Balsillie.

"One of the things that we've established up front is we won't talk about anybody's that called us," Quinn said when asked about Balsillie.

Balsillie is eager to buy an NHL team after failed attempts in Pittsburgh and Nashville. His lawyer, Richard Rodier, released a statement Monday in lieu of the Sabres rumors.

"From time to time, reports surface quoting anonymous sources claiming a club is for sale, or that Jim is doing this or that with respect to a particular club," Rodier said. "These reports have generally been inaccurate."

Regardless of Balsillie's icy relationship with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, it's only a matter of time, in our opinion, before he gets an NHL team. He's a passionate hockey guy with deep, deep pockets.

Lightning moves
Lightning GM Brian Lawton is attending his first BOG meeting, but he was busy before the festivities started Monday, putting forwards Chris Gratton and Radim Vrbata on NHL waivers.

Once he clears, Vrbata will head back home to play hockey in the Czech Republic and the Lightning will no longer be on the hook for his $3 million salary. "That's the plan," Lawton told

Should Vrbata want to come back to the NHL next season, however, the Lightning will be responsible for his NHL contract, which calls for a $3 million salary in 2009-10 and 2010-11.

Gratton, who is earning $1.25 million this season, will be an unrestricted free agent July 1.

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer



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