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Paetsch, Sabres agree to three-year deal Defenseman to sign today, avoiding arbitration

Nathan Paetsch was no bonus baby. The Washington Capitals selected the defenseman in the second round of the 2001 draft and then tossed what they thought was a minnow back into the draft pool.

Two years later, the Buffalo Sabres took a seventh-round flier on him. He struggled to find his way in the organization. He was converted into a forward his first season with the Rochester Americans but played in only 54 games. They jerked him back to defense the next season.

It took Paetsch nearly five years from the time he originally was drafted to finally play his first NHL game, and he got an assist. Then that was it. The Sabres sent him back to Rochester.

Paetsch will look back on the journey today and probably declare it was well worth the aggravation. The 24-year-old from LeRoy, Saskatchewan, informed The Buffalo News he will sign a contract today that will keep him in the NHL for at least three more seasons.

"It hasn't been a paved road for me, that's for sure," Paetsch said Monday after agreeing to terms on a one-way contract. Financial terms haven't been disclosed yet. "To have a three-year NHL contract and solidify myself as an NHL player, I'm ecstatic.

"I've dreamed all my life about being an NHL player. To go through everything I have, it makes me appreciate where I am now. I'm excited to start a long career here."

Paetsch's signing could complete the Sabres' roster for the upcoming season. They have seven defensemen, 19 forwards and two goalies in the fold. The only way it will change is if they make a trade.

Paetsch had an arbitration meeting scheduled for Thursday. He would have received a raise over the $495,000 he earned last season.

"I don't think there's any player in the world that wants to go to arbitration," Paetsch said. "Whenever you don't make it to arbitration, it means both sides got what they wanted. Everybody seems to be happy. I'm glad it got done.

"It's exactly what I wanted. I want to be here for a long time and hope it turns into something bigger."

Paetsch served as Buffalo's seventh defenseman but skated in 63 games due to various injuries to those ahead of him on the depth chart. He had two goals and 24 points to finish fourth among Sabres defensemen in scoring, ending the regular season three points ahead of Jaroslav Spacek and five ahead of Toni Lydman. Paetsch notched as many assists as Dmitri Kalinin.

Paetsch didn't play in any of Buffalo's 16 playoff games.

"The Sabres showed a lot of confidence in me to lock me up three years," Paetsch said. "I'm super thrilled they wanted to keep me around here for a long time. I'm really excited about that. I'm excited to start playing now."

e-mail: tgraham@buffnews.com

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