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SABRES' SHOPPING COULD INCLUDE SOME SELLING

Tops Friendly Markets. Wegmans. Piggly Wiggly. Whatever.

The Buffalo Sabres will push their cart down any aisle it will fit this weekend to stock up on personnel.

The NHL draft, however, isn't a mere buyer's market.

When the nine-round affair convenes Saturday and Sunday at the National Car Rental Center in Sunrise, Fla., it could turn out to be more of a swap meet. And Buffalo is one organization that can afford to do some serious wheeling and dealing if other parties are ready to barter.

The Sabres own six picks this weekend, including two of the top 32 overall. It has the 22nd pick in the first round and three more in the second.

But the Sabres' quantity and quality of choices could change quickly if they can successfully shop their two most valuable wares: goaltender Dominik Hasek and unsigned restricted free agent center Michael Peca.

Buffalo is willing to deal not only one of the greatest goalies in hockey history, but also the player many Sabres still consider their captain. Still, Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier isn't counting on those transactions going down.

"I suppose there's always a chance," Hasek and Peca could be traded, Regier said Thursday. "But at the end of this weekend I don't view that as realistic. Things don't have to be done this weekend even though everyone is blowing this up as the big time to strike a deal.

"This is about the draft and us focusing primarily on our six picks. But Michael and Dom's names come up in this situation. In the right situation, we'll be active. But we certainly don't feel something has to happen this weekend."

Hasek, who last week won his sixth Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goalie, becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1 if the Sabres don't exercise his one-year option at $9 million.

Regier said the Sabres have given Hasek's agent, Rich Winter, permission to speak with other teams to gauge his client's worth. The reason: If a team is willing to take on Hasek's option salary, the Sabres could make a sign-and-trade arrangement.

Regier also noted the Sabres have contacted "a few teams" that might be interested in acquiring The Dominator.

"We've had some discussions with teams, and we have given Rich Winter the ability to talk with some teams on a limited basis," Regier said. "But there's only a few teams out there that can entertain that type of option.

"The decision (on Hasek) probably won't be made until June 30. It's not an easy situation at this point. I don't foresee (a conclusion) happening this weekend."

Winter was guarded in commenting on Hasek's future, which could include retirement.

"I don't think the parties know the answer yet, so anything now is speculative," Winter said Thursday from his office in Edmonton. "If anybody thinks they can guess what Dom will do, they've obviously never faced him on a shootout.

"We'll see how things materialize."

Peca will take the same approach this weekend: sit, wait and hope for the best.

"This is the time to do it," Peca said. "I'd like to think I'd be moved, but I don't know where. I wouldn't be surprised if nothing happens."

Peca, who sat out all last season in a bitter contract dispute, has emphatically stated he will never again play for Buffalo. He is concerned that if he isn't traded this weekend he will miss part of the 2001-02 campaign. Regier has echoed that sentiment.

"Teams that are interested in me aren't going to want to wait forever," Peca said. "They'll start to move in another direction beyond this weekend. Teams are looking to make the moves now. Teams don't want to wait and see what Buffalo wants to do."

Peca finally had shoulder surgery six weeks ago to repair an injury sustained during the 1999-2000 season after a hit by Washington Capitals center Steve Konowalchuk. Peca claimed he already is near 100 percent healthy and is anxious to be gainfully employed.

"I want to be able to move on with my career," he said. "My family and I want to move on with our lives."

Said Regier: "This the most discussion we've had with respect to Michael since the trade deadline, which is something you would expect."

Many teams are said to be sniffing around for Peca, but the ones that might be in best position to strike a deal with the Sabres are the Atlanta Thrashers, who own the No. 1 overall pick, and the Phoenix Coyotes, who have four of the top 45 choices.

The Coyotes have been in the market for a star forward, with Peca and Toronto Maple Leaf Sergei Berezin receiving most mention. Coyotes GM Cliff Fletcher has said "We need a warrior - like Michael Peca is."

Thrashers GM Don Waddell, who estimated he is 75 percent sure he will keep the top pick, also has been quick to discuss Peca's pluses. Waddell has raved about Peca and claims the former Selke Trophy winner could be the sort of centerpiece to build his third-year organization around.

"The Michael Peca thing . . . we expressed interest at the trade deadline," Waddell said Wednesday. "Certainly he's a player we've talked a lot about within our organization. He would be a good fit.

"But as we sit here today there's no talk about trading our No. 1 draft pick for him."

But what about the No. 1 selection for Peca and a talented goaltender? One of the hotter rumors this offseason had the Sabres shipping Peca and one of their young goaltenders to the Thrashers for the top pick.

"That is something that has really been blown out of proportion," Regier said. "We've not had any discussion with Atlanta in respect to the first pick. It's my sense Atlanta will proceed with making that selection."

In other Sabres news Thursday, the team announced a partnership with the St. Catharines Minor Hockey Association. The Sabres' three-year commitment will provide $100,000 (Canadian funds) to the 17-team SCMHA as well as equipment and Sabres memorabilia to be used for fund-raising purposes.

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