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Clock is ticking for Sabres captains Drury, Briere inch closer to free agency

The Buffalo Sabres are officially inventors.

They'll have to be really creative if they want to keep their two co-captains past Sunday morning.

The NHL free agent market opens in four days, and it appears the Sabres are no closer to retaining either Chris Drury or Daniel Briere. An NHL source said Tuesday that Briere still has not received a contract offer, while Drury's agent had no comment on negotiations (or lack thereof).

The Sabres continued their tight-lipped policy.

"I think that the less said the better right now, and we'll go from there," managing partner Larry Quinn said.

Briere is said to have received only one brief phone call. Drury's agent, Mark Witkin, declined to update his client's status. The Sabres' exclusive negotiating rights to both players are set to expire. The other 29 teams can extend contract offers at one minute past noon Sunday.

Drury may have a chance to go back to where his career started if the Sabres maintain their current negotiating pace. An industry source said Tuesday the Colorado Avalanche is expected to bid for their third-round pick in the 1994 draft.

Drury won the Stanley Cup (2001) and Rookie of the Year award (1999) with the Avs, who dealt him to Calgary in 2002. Colorado will have cap space and a center spot, with only Joe Sakic, Paul Stastny and Tyler Arnason cemented in the middle.

San Jose also continues to be a possible destination for the 30-year-old Drury. The Sharks cleared $3.542 million in cap space this weekend when they traded goaltender Vesa Toskala and forward Mark Bell to Toronto for draft picks.

Philadelphia remains interested in Briere, a source said. The Flyers recently added high-priced defenseman Kimmo Timonen ($6.33 million cap number) and forward Scott Hartnell ($4.2 million), but their desire for a top-line center is earnest.

"We have room to do things," Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren said over the weekend. "And we have room to be creative. We'll see what happens starting July 1."


Quinn was pleased -- and surprised -- to learn he and the team have been granted a patent for the goal net he invented in 2005. The NHL was open to suggestions on how to make the game better during the lockout, so Quinn drew a cage with bowed posts on a napkin.

Buffalo-based Jentsch & Co. created a prototype, and Quinn and the Sabres (as Hockey Western New York LLC) applied for a patent. It was granted in the past week.

"I think it's kind of neat that we got a patent approved," Quinn said when informed by The News. "I never considered myself an inventor, so that's a new thing.

"When we were exploring different ideas, we thought we may as well patent our idea so somebody else doesn't steal it. But I don't think right now we have any further thoughts about it. We'll wait and see if it's something that hockey ever adopts or anything."

The NHL has discussed bigger nets during its league meetings, and it may do so again should scoring continue to decrease. The posts of the Quinn cage are the same height and width as regulation nets, but the sides bow out 3 inches while the crossbar goes up 6 inches.

"Our intent in doing it was to stimulate some innovation in hockey and get people to think of it differently," Quinn said. "It's a very different shape and it's a departure, so it achieved its goal to get people to really think about how to make the game more exciting. Whether they actually use the net may not be as important as actually stimulating good ideas."



>Free agent signing period: Opens 12:01 p.m Sunday

Top unrestricted free agents:

Chris Drury, C, Buffalo

Daniel Briere, C, Buffalo

Scott Gomez, C, New Jersey

Ryan Smyth, LW, N.Y. Islanders

Sheldon Souray, D, Montreal

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