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Sabres on the market?

Buffalo SabresIt’s pretty thin gruel so far, but there’s a buzz in NHL circles that Tom Golisano may be ready to put the Buffalo Sabres (NHL) on the market, with Jim Balsillie‘s name coming up frequently as a potential suitor — but be warned we’re a long ways from the franchise changing hands.

The information came from a note buried deep in Kevin Paul Dupont’s Sunday notes column, saying that Golisano may be looking at a sale despite making public comments this summer saying he expected to be the Sabres owner in the next five or ten years. From there Dupont lept to Balsillie as a potential buyer.

Balsillie is unquestionably eager to land an NHL franchise, but the way he’s gone about it — challenging the sales of the Nashville Predators and Phoenix Coyotes in court — has certainly rankled the NHL braintrust. He’s not been seeking a franchise to keep at its current venue, but rather to move to Canada.

This should raise some red flags in Buffalo. If Balsillie promised to keep the Sabres in Buffalo — a solid NHL market over the years — we expect he’d be welcome as a potential buyer. If he waffles, you can expect the NHL to throw down roadblocks and direct Golisano to search for a local owner, or at least one committed to Buffalo.

Which is where the other name in Dupont’s item comes in: Terry Pegula, who along with his wife, Kim, recently donated $88-million to Penn State for the construction of a new arena, allowing the Nittany Lions to move up to Division I hockey in 2014. He notes Pegula’s wife is from suburban Buffalo and says, “No one ever wants to leave the Buff.” Alas, she did: the Pegulas reside in Florida and have shown little interest in purchasing a professional hockey franchise. So Dupont may have been getting ahead of himself a little.

Or not, as it ends up!

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