Buffalo Sabres general manager Darcy Regier said he needs to keep the team's salary structure intact for the future rather than succumb to the demands of any one player, including unsigned players Donald Audette and Mike Wilson.
Regier, addressing the situations during a luncheon Thursday, acknowledged the Sabres have more leverage in negotiations with both players because they're winning. However, he said, he would not handle talks any differently if the opposite were true.
"We have the responsibility, because the hammer is on our side, not to swing it," Regier said. "It's better to be fair with the leverage than without the leverage. It's never about one player's contract. We have to look at the big picture."
The Sabres and Audette appear to have reached a stalemate in their negotiations, and the nine-year veteran has asked to be traded. Wilson, who is playing for Las Vegas in the International Hockey League, has even less bargaining power.
Regier said he would continue to look for solutions for both players and remained optimistic Audette and Wilson would be back in the lineup at some point this season.
The Sabres and Audette have agreed on a three-year package worth $5.7 million but have disagreed on whether the option should be after the first or second year of the deal. Audette has basically disregarded a $2.5 million proposal for the third year because he believes the team has no intentions of keeping him past next season.
"It might as well be for $10 million," Audette said. "It doesn't matter what the third year of the deal is because they know they won't be paying me for the third year."
Regier said the team also made a two-year offer to Audette for slightly less than the $3.2 million included in the first two years of the current proposal, but Audette declined.
Audette has said repeatedly over the last two months that the team is not being fair considering his production and experience in the league. He has 164 goals and 125 assists in his career, including 24 goals and 20 assists last season.
"We're looking to sign this player," Regier said. "Part of that is convincing the player that what we have on the table is a fair and honest offer. We haven't (convinced Audette), quite frankly."
Sabres coach Lindy Ruff continued to tinker with his lines in practice Thursday with the return of forwards Wayne Primeau (bruised shoulder) and Matthew Barnaby (suspension).
Primeau skated at left wing with Michael Peca and Vaclav Varada in practice on Wednesday and Thursday. Primeau has played mostly center throughout his career.
With Primeau skating on Peca's line, Ruff moved Dixon Ward with Derek Plante and Rob Ray. Barnaby skated with Geoff Sanderson and Brian Holzinger. The only line intact from Saturday's win over Chicago was Curtis Brown between Michal Grosek and Miroslav Satan.
Ruff has told the Sabres to stop yelling at the officials because he believes the practice is working against the team.
Buffalo is the fourth-most penalized team in the league with 24.1 minutes a game.
"The last two games, we haven't yelled at an official," Ruff said. "Before that, it was getting out of hand from players, coaches, myself. It's going to stop. If we get a penalty, we're going in the box."
The Sabres have appointed Ron Bertovich as executive vice president of administration as one of a group of moves involving the front office.
Bertovich had been working in that capacity on an interim basis since April. He will oversee most non-hockey operations, including marketing, sales and broadcasting.
Ed Hartman was named executive vice president of finance and business development. He had been director of finance for Adelphia Communications. Kerry Atkinson will work as the team's senior vice president of corporate sales; he was the assistant to the president of the Empire Sports Network.
Four other employees have new titles: Christye Peterson, senior vice president of marketing; Michael Gilbert, vice president of communications; Stan Makowski, senior director of facilities management, and Chris Schoepflin, senior director of sports and arena planning.