Portland, ME – In what has been a poorly kept secret over the last several weeks, it appears the Buffalo Sabres days in Portland are about to come to an end.
Several sources have indicated to Maine Hockey Journal that an announcement could come as soon as tomorrow that the Buffalo Sabres have purchased the Rochester Americans for an undisclosed sum expected to be in the range of five million dollars.
According those sources a deal has been in place for roughly a week to 10 days now with only signatures from all parties involved needed to finalize the purchase agreement. Once that is complete, it will only need the stamp of approval from the AHL Board of Governors, which is scheduled to meet for their annual summer meetings from July, 4-7 in Hilton Head, South Carolina.
It’s expected that the Sabres led by owner Terry Pegula and Ted Black will be in Rochester for a scheduled press conference on Tuesday or Wednesday outlining the deal and laying out the future for the organization.
The Sabres were unavailable for comment.
The deal will reunite the two clubs after Buffalo broke off a 29-year relationship with the American to come to Portland in 2008.
Both sides agreed to an extension last spring extending the affiliation til the 2013-’14 season with a two-year option at Buffalo’s discretion.Pegula, a Pennsylvania businessman purchased the NHL club in Buffalo for an estimated 175 million dollars and at the time he questioned the reasons why the Sabres weren’t affiliated with the Americans although he’d been given a positive report about Portland.
“To show you how “the fan” in you might not be the right way to react,” said Pegula at the initial press conference. “The fan in me said why did (Buffalo leave) Rochester. They’re so close, easy to move players back and forth and then I started to hear about Portland and I’ve never been there, but everybody tells me what a beautiful minor league city Portland is. “You guys ought to be thankful you’re there”, it’s a great place, and the players love it there.”
With three years left on the current deal with the Pirates, Buffalo could only complete the purchase agreement once they came to terms on a buyout with the Pirates Managing Owner and CEO Brian Petrovek.
Now that the deal is completed and an announcement is on the horizon, the Pirates can move forward on finding a new parent club.
It’s been speculated that several teams have looked into Portland including the Tampa Bay Lightning, Vancouver Canucks, Phoenix Coyotes and Florida Panthers.
Both Tampa Bay and Vancouver are not considered likely options as they are exploring other cities as potential homes for their prospects.
Dineen was announced as the head coach of the Florida Panthers earlier this month, leaving Portland as the winningest coach all time in franchise history, and hinting that a relationship between the two clubs might be possible.
“I know where I’d like for (prospects) to be,” said Dineen in a phone interview. “It’s a quality of life there that’s unmatched. It’s a good place to develop players and prepare them to be ready for the NHL.”
The other potential team is the Phoenix Coyotes, who were recently in Portland meeting with ownership and inspecting the facilities at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
The Coyotes current AHL deal recently expired with the San Antonio Rampage and they have been looking at other possibilities. The National Hockey League currently owns the Coyotes, who purchased the club out of bankruptcy in 2009, and have been looking for a buyer since. It’s been long rumored that this team could be relocated if a buyer is not found, and with the recent relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg, that Quebec City could be next in line to receive a franchise, making Portland a logical site for their parent club.
When contacted earlier this week Petrovek had no comment on the situation.