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Canadian Press
8/6/2006 9:41:08 PM

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - An arbitrator awarded Buffalo centre Adam Mair a $675,000 US, one-year contract Sunday, ending a two-week period in which the Sabres saw their modest $29 million payroll from a year ago increase substantially.

According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the players and the NHL, the Sabres have to automatically accept Mair's award because it is less than $1.4 million.

The ruling also starts the clock on the team's decision whether to winger J.P. Dumont's $2.9 million judgment that he received Wednesday. Buffalo has until Tuesday to decide.

If the Sabres walk away from the award, Dumont becomes an unrestricted free agent.

Buffalo has accepted Daniel Briere's arbitration award of $5 million handed down on July 23, a figure that set the stage for a dramatic change in the team's salary landscape.

The small-market Sabres reached the Eastern Conference final - losing in Game 7 to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes - with a payroll that was $10 million below last year's salary cap.

Including Dumont's and Mair's salaries, Buffalo's payroll is currently around $38 million, roughly $6 million below the league's upcoming $44 million salary cap.

The Sabres had a league-high 10 players file for arbitration, but were able to avoid seven of the hearings by reaching long-term deals with Maxim Afinogenov, Tim Connolly, Paul Gaustad, Ales Kotalik, Toni Lydman, Jason Pominville, and Henrik Tallinder. Each received a pay increase over 2005-06.

The payroll will likely take another hit soon, as goalie Ryan Miller and defenceman Dmitri Kalinin remain unsigned.

Miller is seeking a long-term deal that would significantly increase his salary from the $501,600 he made last year when he emerged as the team's No. 1 goaltender. The rookie won 30 games and posted a 2.60 goals-against average after wrestling the top job away from veteran Martin Biron.

Kalinin, who made $1.3 million, had a disappointing season and dropped down the team's depth chart. The addition of free agent defenceman Jaroslav Spacek has pushed Kalinin even further down the ladder.

Mair made $450,000 in an injury-plagued season last year, missing 36 games because of a concussion sustained against Phoenix on Jan. 12. He also missed the first six games because of a pre-season groin injury. In 40 games, the forward recorded seven points and 47 penalty minutes.

The 27-year-old Hamilton native was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the fourth round (84th overall) in 1997.

He has 16 goals and 33 assists in 252 career NHL games.
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