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Associated Press
7/30/2006 7:14:31 PM

BUFFALO (AP) - Centre Paul Gaustad avoided salary arbitration with the Buffalo Sabres, signing a $1.425-million US, two-year contract Sunday.

Gaustad, who will make $675,000 next season, received a slight raise over the $450,000 contract he made as an NHL rookie last season. He was scheduled to have his arbitration hearing Wednesday.

A rugged centre who split time on the Sabres third and fourth lines last season, Gaustad finished with nine goals and 15 assists in 78 games. He added four assists in 18 playoff games in helping the Sabres reach the Eastern Conference final, which they lost in Game 7 to eventual Stanley Cup champion Carolina.

Gaustad's agent, Carlos Sosa, said the Sabres prompted the deal by opening talks late last week. Sosa added, Gaustad was seeking a two-year deal because it leaves him eligible for one more year of arbitration in 2008.

Buffalo selected Gaustad in the seventh round of the 2000 draft after he showed raw signs of promise following his rookie junior season in Portland of the Western Hockey League. He spent the next five years developing his skating ability to earn a spot on the Sabres season-opening roster last year.

Buffalo still has three players scheduled for arbitration hearings, starting with forward J.P. Dumont on Monday.

The group also includes Maxim Afinogenov, whose hearing is scheduled for Thursday. Afinogenov is expected to command a hefty raise over his $1.08 million contract after leading the team with 73 points last season.
 

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The interesting thing here though, is that they shipped Pyatt off to Vancouver. I think that they preferred to keep Gaustad over him, and I'm now wondering if Pyatt will be a good as they say he'd be after the season he had yet again, or at least what Buffalo's thinking about his progress.

I know that he's only 24, but he hasn't shown much. Maybe Vancouver will help him change that, who knows really.

But Buffalo has enough youth to let him go and try to see how Gaustad performs in a 3rd or 4th line role.
 
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