BUFFALO, N.Y. - The Buffalo Sabres aren't done shopping after securing a backup goaltender in free agency. Next on general manager Darcy Regier's list: A reasonably priced defenceman.
"We're still working and have been on the phone this morning and will continue to work," Regier said Wednesday, a day after signing Patrick Lalime to a two-year, US$2-million contract to back up starter Ryan Miller. "We're still exploring, really looking for a defenceman, so I remain hopeful."
What encourages Regier is that rather than reaching out to players' agents, as he did Tuesday when the NHL's free agency period opened, agents are now calling him.
"That for me is positive news," Regier said. "It tells me that players are looking at it and saying, 'Hey, Buffalo would be a nice place to play.' It tells me that it's a possibility."
Just don't expect the Sabres to spend so much they upset the team's salary scale. That rules out the Sabres going after Brooks Orpik, the former Penguins defenceman, who grew up near Buffalo and whose brother Andrew is a Sabres prospect. Orpik is considered the best defenceman still available, expected to attract lucrative offers.
The Sabres are more interested in adding a mid-range free agent to bolster a blue-line corps after the team allowed three regulars to become free agents: Dmitri Kalinin, Nolan Pratt and Teppo Numminen, who missed all but one game last season because of heart surgery. Buffalo is also down another defenceman after trading Brian Campbell to San Jose in February.
Regier hasn't ruled out re-signing Pratt, and maintains a level of interest in Numminen.
As it stands, the Sabres return four regulars, Jaroslav Spacek, Toni Lydman, Henrik Tallinder and Nathan Paetsch. And they also have two youngsters, Andrej Sekera and Mike Weber, who made significant contributions down the stretch last season and are expected to compete for full-time jobs this year.
The Sabres have plenty of depth at forward, and Regier hasn't ruled out trading from that group to acquire a defenceman.