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BIRON, REGIER DISCUSS ISSUES, STAY AT ODDS

Buffalo Sabres goaltender Martin Biron spoke with General Manager Darcy Regier earlier this week. Apparently, it was just a friendly chat between player and management with no agents or negotiators. It was Biron and Regier, one-on-one.

The idea was for Biron to understand the Sabres' stance in their contract talks with the goaltender. Biron wanted to make sure the Sabres understood his position about how he should be paid the next few years. In the end, both sides were clear.

Of course, it solved absolutely nothing. It appears Biron and the Sabres will now sit, wait and see who blinks first.

"I understand that they have rules to follow and a business to run," Biron said by telephone from Montreal. "Right now, I'm a businessperson. That's how I'm looking at it."

Regier said: "In my position, it's important that we understand each other -- where he is and what he's thinking. Marty afforded me the opportunity to talk about our view on things. I do understand his thinking. It doesn't mean I agree with it."

The Sabres are offering a three-year package that includes $600,000 for the first season, $700,000 for the second and Buffalo's option for a third year at $1.2 million. Biron's agent, Gilles Lupien, would not say how much Biron was seeking, but it's considerably less than the two-year deal worth $3.1 million given to Philadelphia goalie Brian Boucher.

Biron, 23, would be eligible for arbitration in two years, which is why he and the Sabres haven't agreed on who would control a third year. He would also consider signing a one-year contract for this season with an option for next.

"You could throw me a $150 million team option and it wouldn't make a difference if they don't (exercise) it," Lupien said. "I've told them I don't want Boucher money, but they paint me into a corner and ask me to move. I can't move. The kid wants to sign. I want him to sign. But he can't play at $600,000 and $700,000 a year."

Biron would have more bargaining power in two years if star goalie Dominik Hasek retires after this season and he plays well next year as the No. 1 goalie. Biron's problem is that the Sabres hold almost all the leverage this year unless Hasek is injured.

The Sabres were prepared to start the season Thursday with promising rookie Mika Noronen backing up the Dominator. Kenmore's Tom Askey, who played well in one preseason appearance, is destined for assignment in Rochester.

Noronen took a 0.72 goals-against average and .965 save percentage into his fourth exhibition game Friday against the Washington Capitals in Erie, Pa. He led the league in both categories among goalies playing at least 100 minutes in the preseason.

Noronen stopped 22 of 23 shots as the Sabres beat the Capitals, 5-1.

"Mika Noronen has played very well," Regier said. "If Mika Noronen keeps running off with a .960 save percentage, what are we going to do?"

Biron had a 19-18-2 record with a 2.42 GAA, .909 save percentage and five shutouts last year. He was in the running for rookie of the year honors and was a major reason for keeping the Sabres intact long enough to make the playoffs. He has a 20-22-3 record in 50 games in his NHL career.

Perhaps the one thing certain is that Biron will start the season in Rochester. He has been working out with unsigned captain Michael Peca in the Pepsi Center, but the Sabres would want to make sure he's in game condition before returning to Buffalo. He can move between the two cities without clearing waivers.

"I don't want to say there's a sense of urgency, but time does play into it," Regier said. "Can you afford to let a person play a regular-season game when he has not played a period?"

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