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Connolly is worth dangling

Column as I see 'em:

*Tim Connolly has eight goals in eight games, easily the hottest streak of his NHL career. He's scored on 20.4 percent of his shots, which would rank sixth in the league if he had played enough games. Connolly is finally healthy again and dazzling Sabres fans with his rare playmaking skills.

So if you ask me, this is the perfect time to trade him. I understand the fascination with Connolly. He's the ultimate tease. But he has played in only 68 of 216 regular-season games since signing a three-year, $8.7 million contract before the 2006-07 season. He makes the Sabres better, but he also could be one jarring hit from retirement.

The trade deadline is March 4. The Sabres should be shopping Connolly, who will be an unrestricted free agent after the season. If the Sabres don't sign him to an extension, he'll probably walk away for nothing. I'll spare you the names, but we've seen that scenario play out too often in recent years.

You trade players when their value is high, and his might never be higher. True, other teams will be wary of his injury history, but surely there are contenders who feel Connolly could be a valuable asset in the playoffs if he remains healthy.

The Sabres have played well of late and look like a playoff team. But they're not a title contender. They're a young team in transition. They need to move some veterans to get better down the road. They've invested a lot in Connolly and have little to show for it. It's time for someone else to take on the risk.

*After a loss at UB, Central Michigan basketball coach Ernie Zeigler said the Bulls have a good shot at getting in the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team. It's wishful thinking. If the Bulls go 8-1 in their last nine games and lose in the finals of the conference tourney, they'll be 25-7. It still might not be enough. The problem is, the MAC is down this year. The league is rated 19th in the latest RPIs. All six Western teams have power ratings of 200 or worse. Beating Central Michigan dropped UB from 71 to 77 in the RPI. Meanwhile, all the secondary programs in the power leagues will be enhancing their NCAA credentials simply by playing each other.

*Turner Gill wasn't happy with his defense. So he fired his defensive coordinator and went looking for better players. Apparently, he succeeded. UB signed Kenny Scott, a junior college defensive tackle, and two highly regarded high school linebackers, Darius Willis and Matt Jones. It would be nice if the Bills did an equally good job of addressing those positions in the draft.

*Scott Boras says there's a growing market for his slugging client, Manny Ramirez. Really? Then how come training camp is approaching and Manny is still unsigned? The list of suitors is actually pretty short. The Dodgers offered one year at $25 million and it got rejected. If Boras thinks anyone is going to give Ramirez a monster long-term deal at age 36, he's kidding himself.

*Kobe Bryant scores 61 points at Madison Square Garden. Then LeBron James goes into New York and puts up 52 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. Now, NBA lovers can look forward to the Lakers at the Cavs on ABC this Sunday afternoon. The Cavs are unbeaten in Cleveland this season.

*Fredonia native Jenn Stuczynski, who won silver in the pole vault at the Beijing Olympics, was named American Female Athlete of the Year by Track & Field News in its latest edition. Stuczynski finished first at the Millrose Games in Madison Square Garden last weekend with a vault of 4.71 meters.

*It's long overdue, but I'm heading to Florida in May for my first-ever golf trip. If you have any memorable (and printable) tales of golfing trips, send them along. I'm thinking of doing a story.


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