Sabres ink Varone

Written By Kris Baker on Tuesday, March 20, 2012 | 3/20/2012

When Phil Varone was brought in as a d-camp invite last summer, pundits thought it was a way to replace the skating and distribution skills that exited the system when Paul Byron was shipped to Calgary.

After accumulating 43 points in his first 63 professional games on an AHL deal, the Sabres decided to further their investment Monday by announcing that they've come to terms on a three-year entry-level deal with the talented pivot.

From the Sabres:

Varone (5’10”, 186 lbs., 12/4/90) currently leads the Rochester Americans (AHL) with 43 points (8+35) and two shorthanded goals in 63 games this season. His 35 assists rank him fourth among all AHL rookies and tie for 15th-most among all skaters. Varone is ranked 12th among AHL rookies in total scoring.

The Vaughan, Ont. native joined the Americans after recording a career-high 82 points (34 goals, 48 assists) in just 59 games last season with London and Erie of the Ontario Hockey League. In five OHL seasons with Kitchener, London and Erie, Varone finished his junior career with 230 points (78+152) in 228 games. He also totaled 34 points (14+20) in 26 career OHL playoff contests.

Varone had four points (2+2) for the Sabres in the 2011 Traverse City NHL Prospects Tournament, helping the Sabres prospects to a tournament championship win. He signed a one-year AHL contract with the Americans in September after attending training camp with the Sabres.


Anonymous said...

Should I be losing trust in the Sabres scouting department since they initially signed Parker and Boychuk to NHL deals, and Varone to only an AHL deal?
Do you think his AHL only deal provided him motivation that Parker and Boychuk didn't have?

Mike H. said...

Perhaps the even better question is, is there any way that we can get rid of Parker and maybe Sydlowski's deals. They may end up taking us unnecessary near the 50 contract limit while contributing little to nothing in regards to NHL potential.

boos said...

good call on varone at the prospects camp, kris

Kris Baker said...

Todd - As much as the Sabres need(ed) centers, they also needed hard-working players who know what to do when the puck hits their tape. My personal opinion is that Varone was the sharpest of the summer invites, but I understand why the others were signed.

Sabres need more trigger men. Parker can really shoot it. That skill along with his work ethic got him a deal. He worked hard in d-camp practices (something fellow invite Steven Beyers didn't appear to do despite looking good in games) and proved tough on the wall in the scrimmages. That effort combined with his release bought him an adjustment period in my eyes. My only issue is his shots on goal at the AHL level. He has the skills to hit at a good percentage, but right now he hasn't been able to get enough shots to the net. Hoping the ECHL gives him some rhythm.

Szydlowski, while he hasn't scored an AHL goal, still brings a lot to the table. He's tough, smart, and is real solid on his skates. Well rounded. Good org depth. It's hard to see by looking at the stat sheet, but he'll do some heavy lifting for you and is a nice guy to have if you have bump him up the lineup.

I'm ok with their deals.

Now Varone, honestly, was the player who I thought looked excellent from the beginning til now. Strong over the summer (better camp than Sundher), and after a brief easing-in period, really good over the past 3+ months in the AHL playing in all situations. What may have prevented this from getting done earlier:
a) numbers of contracts relative to their need to lock up their 2010 picks (priorities)
b) the need to see him consistently perform as an undersized forward in the AHL
c) Steven Shipley. The Sabres needed to see if the 6'3 center could spike his development as a former 4th rounder. Sure they could have both, but right now I'm thinking Varone's deal makes it very difficult for Shipley to negotiate an ELC.

Anonymous said...

Kris, I love this Varone kid...

Anonymous said...

Thanks Kris. Great stuff!

When would Shipley become an UFA if Sabres don't sign him to an ELC? Do you think they should extend an AHL deal to him?


Mike H. said...

I'll answer the one question for Kris. Shipley needs a deal signed by June 15th of this year or the Sabres no longer have exclusive rights to him.


I'm not sure how to phrase this question, because technically there's very few prospects that ever "make it." I'll use Turnbull as the comparable. He was undrafted, brought in a low risk high reward player and got himself a recall. Are Parker and/or Szydlowski capable of getting to this point? How long will the Sabres be willing to wait given the 50 contract limit and tons of eligible UFAs from junior and college out there?

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