The Buffalo Sabres' plan had been to deal with their unrestricted free agents after the season but General Manager Darcy Regier said here Saturday the team is interested in starting talks right now on a new deal with red-hot center Tim Connolly.
Connolly, who has spent the bulk of his three-year, $8.7 million contract on the injured list, has been Buffalo's best forward for the past three weeks after returning from a broken rib. He entered Saturday with 19 points in 19 games this season.
"He is a special case," Regier said between periods at Scotiabank Place. "He's someone we're going to look at before the [trade] deadline, not from a trade standpoint but from the standpoint of seeing if there's a possibility we can do something going forward."
Regier said the Sabres aren't taking the stance that Connolly should reward them for their faith in him while he was injured by taking a limited deal.
"While that may be true [the team showed faith], that's not what this is about," Regier said. "It's about the fact we know what kind of player he is when he's back in the lineup. That's the main thing."
Connolly entered Saturday with goals in seven of his last nine games and with nine points in his last six games.
"The points are the obvious part," Regier said. "But the less obvious things are when you see him skate the way he has, his commitment on the defensive end to things like blocking shots and backchecking. He's a lot more mature player, probably because he's been through an awful lot and he's missed the game so much."