BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — The Buffalo Sabres have suspended contract talks with first-round draft pick Zack Kassian after the forward was charged with assault for allegedly punching a man at a bar in Canada.
General manager Darcy Regier stressed that the Sabres are still very open to signing the player, selected 13th overall in the draft last year. He warned, however, that it's critical for Kassian to learn from what happened.
"I told him on one hand in no way are we going to abandon him. We're going to work with him. But he's got some work to do on the other hand," Regier said. "He's remorseful. He recognizes he made a mistake."
The 19-year-old Kassian was arrested at a patio bar in his hometown of Windsor, Ontario, in the early hours of May 30, according to a report issued by Windsor Police Services.
According to the report, a uniformed officer working at the downtown bar was drawn to a shouting match, where he saw a 20-year-old man bleeding from the mouth. Kassian was identified as the person who struck the man, who chipped a tooth but didn't required medical treatment.
Kassian was arrested and later released on a promise to appear in court.
Kassian's agent, Paul Krepelka, said his client's next scheduled court appearance is set for next month.
Krepelka confirmed that negotiations have been suspended, and credited the Sabres for being "very supportive." He said the current focus is getting Kassian's legal issues resolved, and anticipates contract talks to resume before the end of summer.
Listed at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, Kassian is a rugged forward known for his physical style. He finished last season in helping the Ontario Hockey League Windsor Spitfires win their second consecutive Memorial Cup championship in May.
In January, Kassian was suspended by the OHL for 20 games for a vicious hit to the head of Barrie forward Matt Kennedy, who sustained a concussion and a cut that required stitches.
Regier maintains his belief in Kassian and said the player was with a group of teammates when he was drawn into the bar fight.
"It's obvious, by his own admission, it wasn't the smart thing for him to do," Regier said. "He's the big guy there and gets challenged and egged on. And those are things you have to learn to walk away from."