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Rumors of Buffalo Sabres sale still strong and why it could be a great thing for the team

Nov 30, 2010, 7:15 PM EDT

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Michael Grier, Paul Gaustad

Usually, when rumors of the sale of a small market team surface, it’s usually seen as bad news or neutral. Yet in the case of the rumors of wealthy person (and hockey fan) Terry Pegula potentially buying the Buffalo Sabres, many think that the cost conscious club could really benefit from Pegula’s deep pockets and considerably deep passion for pucks.

Most recently, Sabres management tried to shoot down the rumors, but if you believe Ken Campbell of the Hockey News, it’s more a matter of semantics than anything else.

Campbell writes that an announcement of the team sale is expected to happen “sometime in late December or early January.” He wrote that Gary Bettman may even introduce Pegula to the NHL ownership group when they meet during the board of governors meetings on December 6 and 7.

The fact that the Buffalo Sabres are throwing cold water on a THN.com report that billionaire Terrence Pegula has signed a letter of intent to purchase the Buffalo Sabres for $150 million could mean a number of things.

Most likely, it means the $150 million figure is not exact, but make no mistake, Pegula wants the Sabres and the purchase price will be in that range, perhaps even lower than $150 million. Does it mean he will definitely buy the team? No, he has simply signed an intention to purchase, which means he still has an out, but the team cannot be sold to anyone else.

As Campbell wrote and Joe discussed before, Pegula’s presence as an owner could indeed be a great thing for the Sabres. While it’s easy to note that Chris Drury and Daniel Briere received lavish contracts – deals that only Briere seems occasionally capable of justifying – the fact of the matter is that Buffalo had a great thing going in those early post-lockout years and currently cannot seem to surround gifted goalie Ryan Miller with sufficient talent. Free agency isn’t the only way to build a team, but having someone like Pegula who would likely be willing to spend big bucks on high-end talent could be huge for the team and fans alike.

So what does all this mean? It can be nothing but good news for the Sabres. That’s because Pegula is a hockey guy through and through and with a net worth of about $3 billion – he’s the 110th richest man in the United States – has very deep pockets. His wife is from a suburb of nearby Rochester and he lived in Orchard Park for a brief period.

He and his wife, Kim, also recently donated $88 million to Penn State University to help build an arena on campus and create Division I hockey programs for both men and women. A native of Carbondale, Pa., Pegula apparently became hooked on hockey watching the Broad Street Bullies in the 1970s. He has also coached his son’s minor hockey team.

“When I helped coach my son’s team back 22 years ago,” Pegula said when he made the Penn State donation, “my passion grew.”

People often forget Buffalo when they discuss “tortured sports cities,” but think of the professional sports heartbreak their two teams suffered. The Bills lost those four Super Bowls in a variety of soul crushing ways and also endured the improbable “Music City Miracle.” Some Sabres fans still struggle with Brett Hull’s foot in the crease goal and it seems like great eras are cut short left and right, from Dominik Hasek to Pat LaFontaine to the Drury/Briere teams.

Count me among those rooting for this ownership change if it brings about big picture stability – and genuine competitiveness in free agency – for those lovable Sabres. Naturally, we’ll keep you posted on this developing story.

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