TORONTO – St. Cloud State defenseman Will Borgen, whose top-seeded team was upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday, has signed his three-year entry-level contract with the Buffalo Sabres and will immediately report to the Rochester Amerks.
Borgen, 21, will head to the AHL on an amateur tryout offer and his ELC will kick in for the 2018-19 season. It will pay $742,500 in the first season and the maximum $925,000 for years two and three.
Buffalo's fourth-round pick in the 2015 draft, Borgen completed his junior year at St. Cloud and was named the National College Hockey Conference's Defensive Defenseman of the Year. The 6-foot-2, 188-pounder had two goals and 13 assists in 36 games this season for the Minnesota school. He was also one of four collegiate players named to the U.S. Olympic team but did not appear in a game in Pyeongchang.
The Sabres were certainly interested in bringing Borgen into their organization but the Huskies were the nation's top-ranked team and had designs on making the Frozen Four in St. Paul, Minn., which doesn't begin until April 5.
The plans quickly changed, however, when St. Cloud suffered a 4-1 loss to Atlantic Hockey champion Air Force in a first-round regional at Sioux Falls, S.D. Sabres General Manager Jason Botterill attended that game and quickly moved to get Borgen officially signed. He could be in the Rochester lineup as soon as Wednesday night's game against Utica.
The Sabres are also working to get 2017 top draft pick Casey Mittelstadt signed after his freshman season at the University of Minnesota ended last week as the Gophers did not make the NCAA Tournament. The team may be willing to burn a year of Mittelstadt's entry-level deal by having him play a few games in the NHL before heading to Rochester, but Mittelstadt is believed to be weighing a return to school for his sophomore season and the Gophers' decision on a replacement for outgoing coach Don Lucia is a key factor in that decision.
The Amerks clinched their first Calder Cup playoff berth since 2014 with Saturday's 4-2 win over Springfield in Blue Cross Arena. They still have nine games left in their regular season, which concludes April 14 at Syracuse. Rochester's playoff opponent will then be either Syracuse or Toronto, and the Amerks will be fortified by several players from the Sabres because Buffalo's season ends on April 7.
In addition to adding Borgen to the roster, the Sabres will be returning defensemen Brendan Guhle and Casey Nelson, forwards Justin Bailey and Nick Baptiste and goaltender Linus Ullmark to Rochester for the postseason in hopes of helping the Amerks win a first-round series for the first time since 2005.
Also Sunday, the Amerks announced they have signed forward Judd Peterson, Borgen's college teammate, to an amateur tryout deal. Peterson, 24, was originally drafted by the Sabres in the seventh round in 2012. He had six goals and a career-high 12 assists in 40 games this season and finished a 151-game college career with 37 goals and 28 assists.