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Sabres Notebook: Gionta weighing offers; Malone likely out of Prospects Challenge

There are teams interested in Brian Gionta. He just needs to decide whether he's interested in them.

The unrestricted free agent skated Thursday in Buffalo, staying in shape as NHL training camps rapidly approach. The former Sabres captain has had multiple teams express interest, but he continues to weigh his options.

"Gio has not made any final decision on his future," Gionta's agent, Steve Bartlett, said via email. "We have had a number of teams that have indicated they would sign him, but he is not sure right now which, if any, offer he would accept.

"He will continue to prepare as though he will play, and we will see how things play out here over the next couple weeks."

The 38-year-old showed last season he still has the skills to compete. He was the only Buffalo player to appear in all 82 games, recording 15 goals and 35 points. His goal total ranked sixth on the Sabres, while Gionta finished seventh in points.

The 15-year veteran entered the summer determined to keep playing, and his No. 1 goal was to remain in Buffalo. The Sabres seemed to fill Gionta's right-wing spot with their acquisition of Jason Pominville.

In addition to the NHL, Gionta might have the option of joining USA Hockey. The Olympic Games are in February, and the NHL will not release its players. Gionta represented the United States in the 2006 Olympics and during multiple world championships and world junior championships. It's possible he could be offered another chance.

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There will be wide variances in skill and maturity when the Sabres begin their four-day Prospects Challenge on Friday. Some players for Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Boston and New Jersey have NHL experience. Others are undrafted hopefuls.

That's why Chris Taylor will be watching for effort, not skill.

"First of all, it's the compete level," the Rochester Americans coach said in HarborCenter. "It doesn't matter their skill level. It doesn't matter anything else. Their compete is what we're looking for.

"Are they willing to go in front and take the goalie's eyes away? Are they willing to box out in front of the net? Are they willing to get pucks off the walls? How hard are they going to battle?

"This is a tournament that they're lucky to be part of. It's an NHL prospects camp. You're playing against all the top prospects from other teams. You've got three other teams here, so they should be very excited. They should be ready to battle."

Bigger, more confident Nylander ready to prove himself to Sabres

Pittsburgh and Boston open the Prospects Challenge at 3:30 p.m. Friday, followed by Buffalo against New Jersey at 7 p.m. The Devils and Penguins play at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, followed by the Sabres and Bruins at 7 p.m. The tournament closes Monday with Boston-New Jersey at noon and Sabres-Penguins at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $10 for each game.

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Sabres prospect Sean Malone sat out practice Thursday and will likely miss the tournament. The team says it will err on the side of caution as Malone deals with a "nagging issue."

The West Seneca native joined Buffalo for its season finale last year after concluding his career at Harvard. Selected in the sixth round of the 2013 NHL Draft, Malone was hindered by hip ailments during his NCAA career.

West Seneca native Malone signs with Sabres; Harvard star will make NHL debut tonight

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Ben Kraws is no stranger to the crease in Buffalo. He'll get a high-profile spot in it this month.

The goaltender for the Buffalo Junior Sabres was one of 42 players named to USA Hockey's All-American Prospects Game. The annual showcase of draft-eligible players will be held Sept. 21 in KeyBank Center.

Kraws is entering his third season with the Junior Sabres. The native of Cranberry, N.J., is scheduled to attend Miami (Ohio) University in 2019-20.

The rosters, which are available at AllAmericanProspectsGame.com, include several Americans who have been pegged to be selected in the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft. Tickets to the game are $10 and are available at Tickets.com and the arena box office.

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The Sabres' annual season kickoff luncheon will take place at 12:30 p.m. Oct. 3 in the Lexus Club of KeyBank Center. The event will include a round-table discussion with Sabres General Manager Jason Botterill, coach Phil Housley and forwards Jack Eichel and Ryan O'Reilly.

Attendees at the business-casual event will sit at a table with current Sabres, coaches and alumni.

Single seats are $55 with a corporate table for 10 costing $500. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Buffalo Sabres Foundation. Tickets are available at Sabres.com. For more information, contact Nick Fearby at nick.fearby@sabres.com.

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