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Pegula's making a major impact; Sabres owner leads way in team's weekend moves

If it wasn't clear before, it certainly is after this weekend. Terry Pegula gets what he wants.

The Buffalo Sabres had to be smiling, high-fiving and toasting each other on the way back from NHL draft weekend in Minnesota. The trip could not have gone any better from their perspective:

*Their purchase of the Rochester Americans was approved.

*They acquired the big, tough defenseman they needed, convincing Robyn Regehr that Western New York is the place he should be.

*They drafted the forward the scouting department coveted, bringing in Finland's Joel Armia in the first round.
*They created even bigger fans in West Seneca, drafting local product Alex Lepkowski.

Yeah, not a bad little weekend. The two biggest moves -- reuniting with the Amerks and trading for Regehr -- can be traced to the owner who just won't be denied.

Pegula targeted the Amerks when he began his purchase of the Sabres. The minor-league team wasn't for sale, and the Sabres already had a long-term agreement in place with Portland to be the American Hockey League affiliate.

It didn't matter.

Pegula reportedly bought out the folks in Maine, threw about $5 million at the boss in Rochester and rekindled what was previously a 29-year partnership.

"It means a lot," Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier said in Minnesota. "The biggest thing you can do in the game outside of the free agency aspect is the development. We've been big on development, but it's going to expand a lot.

"We're talking about a culture in our game that really works around a two-hour period of time in which these players are trained. This is going to open us up to four and five hours at that level, and when you can start to do the type of work that we'll be able to do, it will show in the results of the players that are able to play for our team."

Pegula followed the Rochester deal by influencing the Regehr trade. The defenseman had spent his entire 11-year career in Calgary, and he had a no-movement clause. He wanted a say in where he went. The Flames' best deal was with the Sabres, and Pegula helped show Regehr the best place for him was Buffalo.

With the deal complete, the billionaire grabbed his suitcase, wife Kim and coach Lindy Ruff and flew to Saskatchewan to welcome Regehr to the organization.

"Terry and Kim were outstanding," Regehr said. "They offered on a couple different occasions to come up and talk with us and just meet with us face-to-face. We held them off [while trying to make a trade decision], but [Saturday] morning they decided to fly up and visit us.

"I could just tell on the phone by talking to Terry he's just a very enthusiastic, committed owner. I could tell that by talking to the players, Jordan Leopold for example, how he came in there and with the type of things that are happening around the rink and the organization. He said they're for real and they want to win there in Buffalo and they're committed to Buffalo. I was really excited."

The folks in the Sabres' offices are, too. It's been four months since Pegula purchased the team, but the honeymoon hasn't come close to ending.

"Terry didn't hedge his bet at all when he bought the team," Regier said. "He said our goal is to win multiple Stanley Cups. He didn't say we were going to try our hardest. He said we're going to win multiple Stanley Cups. He has a philosophy on how that's done, based on what he did with his oil company, and this is an indication.

"He spoke with Robyn, said I'm going to come up and see you. I have not been a part of an ownership that takes that type of genuine interest in the players, in the relationship with them and the importance of it for him. He's very focused on making this family oriented, relationship based, and he believes that's what will drive our success."

The next chance for Pegula to show his magic touch is at hand. The free agent market opens at noon Friday. Regier said the Sabres might not be done with their blue line, and they definitely need a center, which is why the GM had talks with Tim Connolly's agent Saturday about re-signing the middle man.

It's a thin crop of available players this summer. Competition is expected to fierce for the high-end talent. So far, however, Pegula has been able to get what he wants.

"He's not focused on let's do our best," Regier said. "It's more than that, and it's real."


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