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Sabres avoid arbitration by re-signing Sekera to 4-year, US$11-million contract

Buffalo Sabres' Andrej Sekera (44) controls the puck as he skates by Pittsburgh Penguins' Pascal Dupuis in the second period of the NHL hockey game, Tuesday, March 8, 2011, in Pittsburgh. The Sabres avoided going to arbitration by re-signing defenceman Sekera to a four-year, US$11-million contract on Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Keith Srakocic

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Buffalo Sabres' Andrej Sekera (44) controls the puck as he skates by Pittsburgh Penguins' Pascal Dupuis in the second period of the NHL hockey game, Tuesday, March 8, 2011, in Pittsburgh. The Sabres avoided going to arbitration by re-signing defenceman Sekera to a four-year, US$11-million contract on Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Keith Srakocic

BUFFALO, N.Y. - The Buffalo Sabres avoided going to arbitration by re-signing defenceman Andrej Sekera to a four-year, US$11-million contract on Tuesday.

Terms of the deal were provided to The Associated Press by two people familiar with contract, who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the Sabres have not disclosed its length and value. The contract is front-loaded, with Sekera set to make $4.25 million this season, $3.25 million in 2012-13 and $1.75 million in each of the final two years, according to one of the people.

General manager Darcy Regier said Sekera's contract averaged out to what he expected the player would receive had the two sides gone to arbitration. In exchange for avoiding arbitration, the Sabres have the advantage of spreading out the cost over a longer term.

"The thing that really prompted us to go longer term with 'Rej,' was the recognition that we were going to be in arbitration if we didn't, number one, and the belief in him and his ability to grow," Regier said. "I think we're just starting to see what 'Rej' can become."

With four-plus years of NHL experience, Sekera is coming off a season in which he had career bests of 29 points (three goals) and 76 games. He's an offensive-minded player, who fits in the Sabres' style that demands defencemen get involved in the rush. Overall, he has 12 goals and 55 assists for 67 points in 233 career games.

Despite the promising numbers, Sekera had an inconsistent year which included a dreadful stretch in which he was benched for three games in late February after enduring a 19-game point drought. He responded with two goals and six assists in his next four games.

"By his own admission, it was not as a consistent season as he would like to have," Regier said of the 25-year-old player. "With his age, I think there's tremendous upside, so that's good."

Sekera will be a part of what's becoming a deep and experienced group of defencemen, after the Sabres added veterans Robyn Regehr and Christian Ehrhoff this off-season.

His signing also puts the Sabres above the $64.3-million salary cap. The Sabres will have to be below that cap number by the start of the regular season.

The Sabres also re-signed role-playing forward Matt Ellis to a two-year contract. Ellis was an unrestricted free agent, who has spent parts of the past three seasons with the Sabres. He had no points in 14 games with Buffalo last year.

Notes: Regier said RW Jason Pominville is on target to be ready for the start of training camp after he had his lower left leg sliced by a skate during the playoffs. ... Regier added that contract talks are progressing with backup goalie Jhonas Enroth, and is optimistic a deal can be reached by the end of the week.

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