Forward Sean Malone has accepted his qualifying offer from the Buffalo Sabres, signing a one-year, two-way deal that would pay $787,500 at the NHL level. He made $70,000 last year in the AHL.
Malone, the West Seneca native and Nichols product who played collegiately at Harvard, was second among Rochester Amerks rookies last year with 12 goals and finished with 22 points in 73 games. A sixth-round pick in 2013, Malone made his NHL debut by playing for the Sabres in the final game of the 2016-17 season at Florida.
Malone is the first player to sign after the Sabres extended six qualifying offers last month. Forwards C.J. Smith and Danny O'Regan got $874,125 offers while Nick Baptiste got $787,500 and Justin Bailey got $715,000 (All deals are for one year with a standard 5-10 percent raise based on previous salary).
The big negotiation currently on the Sabres' docket is forward Sam Reinhart, who was extended a qualifying offer of $874,125 and has his representatives working with the team on a much more lucrative deal after setting career highs of 25 goals and 50 points last season. Reinhart, 22, has played three full seasons in the NHL.
An interesting comparable to Reinhart might be Detroit winger Anthony Mantha, who signed a two-year, $6.6 million deal with the Red Wings on Wednesday. The 23-year-old set career highs with 24 goals and 48 points last season, his second year in the league.