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UFA Sabres at deadline

The countdown on the NHL's free agency clock is ticking and there is nothing new on the status of Buffalo Sabres defensemen Toni Lydman and Henrik Tallinder.

Buffalo's veteran blue-liners will become unrestricted free agents Thursday at noon and it's unlikely the Sabres will be able to sign them before then. The team remains interested in both but the best-case scenario appears to be that it finds a way to keep one.

The team has spoken to representatives of both players since the end of the season, although Lydman and Tallinder said at the trade deadline and on locker cleanout day they had not heard any offers from the club for a new deal.

Both said they were interested in returning under the right circumstances but General Manager Darcy Regier clearly intimated at Saturday's draft in Los Angeles that the increase in the salary cap to $59.5 million for next season may have outpriced them from returning to Buffalo. The Sabres are expected to give Mike Weber a regular role on defense next season to fill one spot.

Tallinder made it clear he would only accept a multi-year deal and he's likely to get at least a three-year deal on the open market with a raise from last year. So is Lydman.

Tallinder made $3.25 million last season, the final one of his four-year, $10.25 million contract, in a big bounceback year playing alongside Calder Trophy winner Tyler Myers. Lydman made $3.15 million in the final season of his four-year, $11.5 million deal.

CSN Philadelphia reported on its Web site that the Flyers have an interest in both Buffalo blue-liners. Philadelphia's top priority, however, appears to be in goal as the Flyers have already received permission to negotiate with San Jose's Evgeni Nabokov and Dallas' Marty Turco.

Tallinder's agent, Don Meehan, said negotiations with the Sabres are far from closed in an e-mail comment to The Buffalo News on Tuesday, adding, "We may very well have further discussions with Buffalo before July 1 and even after."

Meehan, who is also Nabokov's agent, did sound a more ominous note when he seconded Regier's notion by saying, "It is helpful that the cap will be over 59 million so I believe the market for Henrik will be healthy."

Lydman's agent, Larry Kelly, did not respond to phone and e-mail inquiries.


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