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Sabres Re-Sign McKee, Brown

June 27, 2002

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) _ The Buffalo Sabres picked up one-year contract options on defenseman Jay McKee and center Curtis Brown, and also extended qualifying offers to retain the rights to eight other players on Thursday.

McKee and Brown will each make about $1.53 million next season, both earning $100,000 raises from last year.

The moves come prior to Sunday’s deadline for NHL teams to secure players before they become eligible for free agency.

The moves also emphasize the Sabres’ ability to operate after being taken over by the NHL last week _ a move that helps clear the way for the financially troubled franchise to be sold.

McKee, who completed his sixth full season with Buffalo, is considered one of the Sabres’ top defenseman. Brown, a five-year veteran, had 20 goals _ including a career-high five game-winners _ and 37 points last season.

Among those issued qualifying offers _ generally consisting of 10 percent raises _ were forwards Maxim Afinogenov, Chris Gratton, Tim Connolly and Vaclav Varada, defensemen Rhett Warrener and Brian Campbell and goaltenders Martin Biron and Mika Noronen.

The players have the option of either accepting the offer or can attempt to negotiate new deals. Biron, Gratton, Warrener and Varada have the additional right to go to arbitration to settle their respective contracts.

Also issued qualifying offers were minor leaguers Jeremy Adduono and Francois Methot.

The Sabres have until Sunday to re-sign three veterans _ enforcer Rob Ray and defenseman James Patrick and Richard Smehlik _ eligible to become unrestricted free agents. Smehlik has already suggested that he will pursue free agency, and considers it unlikely that he will re-sign with the Sabres.

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