The Sabres announced Tuesday that they have signed goaltender Connor Knapp (2009, 6th round, 164th overall) and center Dan Catenacci (2011, 3rd round, 77th overall) to entry-level contracts. The duo are expected to join the Rochester Americans of the AHL, who are currently in Abbotsford, B.C. for a Tuesday/Wednesday set with the Heat.
The 5'10 Catenacci inks a three-year deal on the heels of a 2011-12 campaign that saw him pot 33 goals and 72 points in 67 games for the OHL's Owen Sound Attack. The quick-footed pivot earned the contract with a strong finish, including a red-hot stretch from January 21st to March 3rd that saw him gather 13 goals and 23 points in 16 games. After spending the balance of this season on an amateur tryout, the 19-year old Catenacci is expected to return to Owen Sound in 2012-13 and hope to get on the radar for Team Canada's selection Camp for the 2013 World Junior Championship.
The 6'6 Knapp emerged as one of college hockey's hottest goaltenders after January 1st, taking control of the RedHawks #1 job for the first time in his career by posting a 12-4 record with five shutouts in his final 16 starts as a collegian. He'd finish the year 15-8 while placing among national leaders with a 1.69 goals against average and .933 save percentage. His 13 career shutouts are Miami University record. Like Catenacci, Knapp will finish the season on an ATO with the Amerks and begin his two-year deal next season.
The club not waiting until the last minute to get the deals done is just another sign that the new ownership group is committed to improving the team's image around the league. 2010 draft picks Mark Pysyk, Kevin Sundher, and Jerome Gauthier-Leduc were previously locked in well before due date. It's quite a change from the days of the Sabres going into May with a plate full of entry-level decisions.