Mar 6, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Buffalo Sabres center Cody Hodgson (19) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the third period at Tampa Bay Times Forum. The Sabres won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

A Buffalo Sabres' Fan Guide To The Offseason

Although the Buffalo Sabres’ season has been over for some time, we’ve now officially hit the NHL offseason.

If you’re anything like me, the offseason can be a tough time of the year. Hockey withdrawal sets in, and you find yourself asking “Is it October yet?!?!” (Sadly, no, it is not.)

Well, have no fear. Although the NHL season is now officially over – and has been for two days already! – there’s still plenty to keep hockey and Buffalo Sabres fans busy during the next few months.

Start things off with today, for instance. Today marks the beginning of the NHL buyout period, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens in regards to that. The buyout period ends on June 30 at 5 p.m., so teams have two weeks to make the moves they wish to.

Will the Buffalo Sabres buy out Ville Leino or another player on the team? If they were to buy out Leino, the Sabres would pay him 2/3 the remaining value of his contract over the next three seasons.

In addition, the AHL’s Calder Cup Finals continue tonight with game four between the Texas Stars and St. John’s IceCaps. All of the remaining games will be broadcast on NHL Network Radio, including tonight’s game and tomorrow’s game five, both in St. John’s at 6 p.m. EST.

Another offseason date that may be of importance to Buffalo Sabres fans is June 22. This is rumored to be the day that the league will be releasing the 2014-2015 schedule. While that hasn’t been confirmed yet, the schedule is coming, sometime in the next month or less. Once that’s out, it’s always fun to start picking which games you’re attending, road trips to take, see when former players are returning, etc.

Two days later, on June 24, is the NHL Awards ceremony in Las Vegas. While there may not be any Buffalo Sabres in the running for an award, it’s still interesting to see who’s voted the top players in their respective categories. Personally, I miss when the awards used to be in Toronto — hopefully the league will consider bringing it back there someday.

Perhaps the biggest days coming up for the Buffalo Sabres organization are June 27 and 28, the days of the 2014 NHL Draft in Philadelphia. That second-overall selection will be great for the organization — look at some of the second-overall picks in recent years. Those guys go on to become franchise players.

Aside from the Sabres’ pick, it’ll also be interesting to see who goes first and third, if any trades are made during the draft, etc. I’ll never forget being at the NHL Draft two years ago in Pittsburgh when the Penguins announced the Jordan Staal trade. The draft is always good for a splash — it’s an exciting time!

And don’t forget about the NHL Draft party hosted by the Buffalo Sabres at the First Niagara Center on June 27. Locker room tours, a panel discussion, live coverage of the draft and more — and it’s all free! Doors open at 6 p.m. with coverage starting at 6:30 p.m.

Just a few days later, the NHL free agent period begins on July 1. This is more of a summer-long ordeal, but it all begins when the period opens on July 1. Which Buffalo Sabres players will sign elsewhere? Will the Sabres sign any big-name free agents this offseason?

July 14 through 18 is then the Buffalo Sabres’ development camp at the First Niagara Center. The camp will see the 2014 draft picks as well as other recent picks from years past come together for skating and other drills on the FNC ice. This year’s camp includes four days of on-ice work open to the public, including a nighttime scrimmage on July 15.

Alright, so those are the most important dates for Buffalo Sabres fans to get through this offseason. But what else is a hockey fan to do until October?

  • Keep tabs on the progress of HARBORCENTER construction in downtown Buffalo. This is a great project that will bring many good things to the city of Buffalo, whether it’s USA Hockey programs or possibly even the NHL Combine. Why not take a drive/bike/etc. down every once in a while this summer to check out how it’s going? If you’re not in the area, follow the Sabres and HARBORCENTER on Twitter for updates.
  • For more casual updates from the teams and its players, including prospects, follow them on Twitter.
  • Check out some hockey books. There are boatloads of great reads about hockey, including many written by former players, coaches, etc. Why not check out “Playing With Fire” by Theo Fleury or “Orr: My Story” by Bobby Orr, or one of the other many great books out there?
  • Hockey movies galore. In addition to books, there’s also some great hockey-related films out there. How about the uber-popular “The Mighty Ducks” movies? Or “Miracle,” which tells the story of the 1980 US Olympic team? “The Rocket” is a great one about Maurice Richard. Of course, there’s also “Goon,” the “Slap Shot” movies and plenty more. You can also go to Youtube and watch old highlights, classic interviews, pregame introductions, etc.

You never know what the offseason will bring, and there’s so many questions to be answered between now and the beginning of training camp in late September. There’s a lot of potential for the next few months — don’t let hockey withdrawal set in too deep, and stay tuned to SabreNoise and your Fansided network for continuous hockey coverage throughout the offseason!

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