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Will money matter for Vanek? Ruff hopes not

Given the escalation in salaries over the past couple seasons, maybe Lindy Ruff should set his sights a little higher for Thomas Vanek.

"I need Thomas to play like he's a $900,000 player because it seemed to do pretty good last year," Ruff said with a laugh after this morning's practice in HSBC Arena. "That's my analogy. Just because you're making more money doesn't mean you have to change as a player. My expectations of him don't change."

Of course, Ruff was making a point with his $900,000 reference. That's about how much Vanek earned last season when he led the Sabres with 43 goals and topped the NHL with a plus-47 rating.

But over the summer the Oilers signed Vanek to an offer sheet worth $50 million over seven years, with $10 million of that due to him this season.

In the meantime, Nathan Paetsch signed a contract that averages out to $850,000 over three seasons. Paetsch was projected as the team's seventh defenseman at the time that deal was struck.

Surely, Ruff won't be happy if Vanek posts Paetsch-like stats.

"If he can be consistent with last year, that would be a darn good year for Thomas," Ruff said. "Is it realistic to think he can go from 25 [goals] to 44 to 70-something? I don't think so. But if we can keep him in that consistent area and have him be that 40- to 50-goal scorer, that would be pretty good."

---Tim Graham

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John Vogl

John Vogl

John Vogl has been covering the Sabres since 2002-03, an era that has included playoff runs, last-place finishes and three ownership changes. The award-winning writer is the Buffalo chapter chairman for the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

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Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has been covering the Buffalo Sabres since 2007. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and can vouch that exposed flesh freezes instantly when walking in downtown Winnipeg in January.

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Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

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