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Sabres sever ties with RW Dumont, $2.9M award

The Buffalo Sabres rejected forward J.P. Dumont's one-year, $2.9
million salary arbitration award on Tuesday, allowing the
seven-year veteran to become an unrestricted free agent.

The team exercised its "walkaway" option, as allowed under NHL
rules, in an attempt to keep its payroll in line. Dumont's salary,
set in arbitration last week, represented a $1.3 million raise over
what he made last season, which would have pushed the Sabres closer
to the $44 million salary cap.

"Unfortunately, it's part of the business," Sabres general
manager Darcy Regier said. "It had a little bit to do with the
amount of the award, certainly. The other part, quite honestly,
we're up against the cap."

Buffalo's payroll stands at $34.5 million with two key
restricted free agents still unsigned. But the team's salary cap
number is just over $38 million because the figure is based on the
average salary over the length of each player's contract.

Regier said the team attempted to trade Dumont, but ruled out
the offers because they involved getting a similar salary in
return. He added the team, after rejecting Dumont's salary, offered
him a new contract, but wasn't sure of the chances of the player
re-signing with Buffalo.

Dumont's agent, Yves Archambault, didn't immediately return
several messages left for him by The Associated Press.

The Sabres became the second team to reject an arbitration award
this summer after Boston declined defenseman David Tanabe's
one-year, $1.275 million contract on Saturday. It also marks only
the fifth time a team has done so since 1999, when Boston rejected
Dmitri Khristich's $2.8 million award.

Dumont was a dependable second-line forward for the Sabres,
registering 20 goals and 20 assists last season. He reached 20
goals for the fourth time despite missing 28 games after he had
surgery in December to repair a sports hernia.

Dumont then played an important role in the playoffs, finishing
with seven goals -- including one in overtime in the second round
against Ottawa -- and seven assists in 18 games.

The Sabres payroll is now $5.5 million over last year, when they
reached the Eastern Conference finals before losing Game 7 to the
eventual Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes.

The jump in salaries comes after the Sabres negotiated
significant raises with numerous players in an attempt to keep the
core of their roster intact. They also elected to accept Daniel
Briere's one-year, $5 million contract awarded in arbitration. The
co-captain received a $3 million raise.

The Sabres are also negotiating to sign restricted free agents,
goaltender Ryan Miller, who's coming off a 30-win season, and
defenseman Dmitri Kalinin.

Miller, who made $501,000 last season, is expected to command a
hefty raise.

"I think this new system is about choices," Regier said,
referring to the NHL's new salary-cap era introduced last year.
"If you have success, you're not going to be able to keep all your
players. You'll have to spin some off, I think, which is part of
the intention of the system. It's intended to create parity."

Dumont was the No. 3 pick in the 1996 draft by the New York
Islanders, and joined Buffalo in March 2000 as part of a
three-player deal with Chicago. His best season was in 2003-04,
when he had 22 goals and 31 assists for a career-high 53 points.