BUFFALO, N.Y. – The Sabres have resumed talks with rookie forward Zack Kassian, leading his agent to express hope that Buffalo’s 2009 first-round draft pick could have a deal as soon as this week.
Paul Krepelka told The Associated Press by phone Monday that talks resumed last week for the first time since the Sabres suspended negotiations after Kassian was charged with assault in May for allegedly punching a man at a bar in his hometown of Windsor, Ont.
The Sabres, who were to play a pre-season game at Toronto on Monday, weren’t immediately available for comment. In announcing he was putting talks on hold in June, general manager Darcy Regier said he remained open to signing Kassian, as long as he didn’t get into more trouble and learned from what happened.
Should they sign Kassian, the Sabres have the option of either keeping the 19-year-old player on their roster or returning him to the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League.
Krepelka said his client “has done everything he’s supposed to do” to learn from the incident, and has impressed the Sabres both on and off the ice since arriving for the start of rookie training camp two weeks ago.
Kassian has expressed regret to the Sabres and the media.
Drafted 13th overall, the six-foot-three, 215-pound Kassian is a hard-hitting forward who made a solid impression in Buffalo’s pre-season-opening 3-1 win over Toronto on Saturday.
Kassian started the game by bowling over Toronto’s Christian Hanson. After setting up Tyler Ennis’ goal midway through the second period, Kassian forced a turnover that led to Rob Niedermayer scoring 1:47 later to put Buffalo ahead 3-0.
There has also been progress on settling Kassian’s assault charge. The player’s lawyer, Pat Ducharme, said he is negotiating a plea deal that he hopes to have resolved by next week.
According to a police report, a uniformed officer working at the downtown bar was drawn to a shouting match, where he saw a 20-year-old man bleeding from the mouth in the early hours of May 30. Kassian was identified as the person who struck the man, who chipped a tooth but didn’t require medical treatment.
Weeks earlier, Kassian had helped the Spitfires win the Memorial Cup.
On Monday, the Sabres also announced that defenceman Mark Pysyk—a first-round draft pick—was one of nine players returned to their Canadian junior teams. Also sent to juniors were forwards Corey Fienhage, Kevin Sundher, Steven Shipley, Gregg Sutch, Cedrick Henley and Riley Boychuk, and defencemen Jerome Gauthier-Leduc and Matt MacKenzie.
The Sabres also released goalie Zane Kalemba from his amateur tryout, leaving the team with 49 players on the roster.