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Thursday, July 3
Sabres trade Ballard to Avs in deal

Associated Press

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Darcy Regier is delivering on his promise to rebuild the Buffalo Sabres.

A week after acquiring a power-play point man in Andy Delmore, the Sabres general manager landed a top-line center in Chris Drury after completing a four-player, three-team trade Thursday involving Calgary and Colorado.

"We identified Chris Drury as someone we feel very strongly can be a very important core contributor to this hockey club going forward," Regier said. "We're working, and plan on continuing to work on improving this hockey club this summer, but we think this is a substantial step in that direction."

After spending the last two years shedding talent and salaries, the Sabres' fortunes are on the rise. The upswing is bolstered by a new owner, billionaire B. Thomas Golisano, who secured the franchise after the team filed for bankruptcy last January.

And Regier is taking to heart Golisano's mandate of making the playoffs next season.

In landing Drury, noted for his scoring and leadership qualities, the Sabres traded defenseman Rhett Warrener and center Steve Reinprecht to Calgary. Buffalo acquired Reinprecht earlier in the day from Colorado for defenseman Keith Ballard, the Sabres first-round pick in the 2002 draft.

The Sabres also acquired fourth-line center Steve Begin from Calgary.

Buffalo identified Drury two months ago as a player they desired. A five-time 20 goal-scorer, and 1999 NHL rookie of the year, he joins Daniel Briere as Buffalo's top centers.

After spending his first four seasons with Colorado, Drury had 23 goals and 53 points in 80 games for the Flames last season.

All that's left is to sign Drury, who made $2.5 million in the final year of his contract.

Regier said it's too early to tell how negotiations will go. But it's apparent the Sabres are excited to add him to a lineup that managed a franchise-low 190 goals last season.

Drury becomes the third significant addition for the Sabres in four months. Along with acquiring Delmore from Nashville last week, Buffalo got Briere from Phoenix in March.

Drury was surprised to be moved for the second time in nine months. The Avalanche dealt him in a five-player trade to acquire defenseman Derek Morris from Calgary last October.

"I didn't see the end of the line coming to this, especially so early in the summer. But that's business, and you move on," Drury said from Connecticut. "I just don't know what to think. I'm in Colorado and they tell me that they like the way I play, and I get traded. I go to Calgary ... and I get traded. I just hope my fiance doesn't tell me she likes me and, well."

Drury is a noted clutch goal-scorer, having scored 26 goals -- 11 of them game-winners -- and 50 points in 80 playoff games. His best postseason came in 2001 when he had 11 goals and 16 points in helping the Avalanche win the Stanley Cup.

As a senior at Boston University, Drury won the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey's most valuable player.

Reinprecht had 18 goals and 51 points in 77 games last season, his second full year with the Avalanche. Reinprecht is a talented young forward, who will join his third team in his fourth NHL season. He started his career with Los Angeles and was sent to Colorado with Rob Blake.

Warrener was one of the Sabres' top defensive defenseman in four-plus seasons in Buffalo. He had nine assists in 50 games last season, averaging 18 minutes per game.

Warrener, who broke into the NHL with Florida in the 1995-96 season, was visiting his brother in Calgary when he learned about the deal.

"The phone rang and Darcy said `We traded you to Calgary,"' Warrener said. "My first words were, `Well, I'm already here."'

Warrener is excited about joining the Flames since he grew up in Saskatchewan, which borders the province of Alberta.

"You're going to have a tough time taking the smile off my face for a long time," he said.

Begin had three goals and four points in 50 games with the Flames last season.

The Sabres also re-signed journeyman defenseman Rory Fitzpatrick on Thursday. Earlier this week, the Sabres secured Fitzpatrick's rights by extending him a qualifying offer, a 10 percent raise over the $425,000 he made last season.

He split time between Buffalo and AHL Rochester last year, recording one goal and four points in 36 games with the Sabres.

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