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Buffalo Beauts sign gold medalist Dani Cameranesi

Cameranesi is the second 2018 gold medalist to commit to the NWHL

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at New York Rangers Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Much like last season, the Beauts have hit the ground running in free agency. Captain Corinne Buie, Rookie of the Year Hayley Scamurra, silver medalist Lisa Chesson, and top forward Maddie Elia all signed within the first five days of the signing period. On Tuesday, the Beauts added 2018 gold medalist Dani Cameranesi to their growing roster.

“Dani brings a winning pedigree and offensive skills that we believe will pay dividends for our team this season,” said Beauts new general manager Nik Fattey.

Cameranesi scored three goals and two assists en route to gold. Her five points tied with three-time Olympian—and American hero—Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson. She tied for fourth in tournament goals with with Canadians Melodie Daoust, Rebecca Johnston, and Marie Philip-Poulin.

“I could not be more excited to announce my decision to sign my first pro contract with Buffalo,” said Cameranesi, who was drafted third overall by the Connecticut Whale in the 2016 NWHL College Draft.

The Minnesota-native opted to sign with the Beauts over the Whale or her home state Minnesota for one important reason: “I ultimately desired to be part of an organization experienced in running a professional sports business,” said Cameranesi in the team press release. Last season, Pegula Sports and Entertainment bought the Beauts. They also own the Buffalo Sabres, Buffalo Bills, and other teams in Buffalo.

She also received a glowing recommendation from her Olympic Tournament roommate Emily Pfalzer. “She’s a big reason as to why I decided to sign with Buffalo,” stated Cameranesi on a media conference call Tuesday. “[Pfalzer’s] obviously a native of Buffalo and played with the Beauts as well. I’ve heard so many great things....part of the mission of the NWHL is to grow women’s hockey, and from what I’ve heard and seen, what Buffalo has done is pretty incredible.”

The Golden Gopher alumna and Plymouth, Minnesota-native did consider signing with the Whitecaps, but ultimately decided on the Beauts. “That was a consideration for me at one point, but I’m actually going to be living in San Jose next year though.”

Yes, San Jose, California. Cameranesi will be relocating to California and playing for the Western New York NWHL franchise. So, how will she make that commute work?

“I’ll have the ability to fly down for long periods of time and for games in Buffalo,” she clarified. She wouldn’t be the first Beaut to travel long distances to play with the team. In fact, Buffalo has a culture of players coming from all parts of the country to play for the team. Kelley Steadman, Brianne McLaughlin, and Ashley Vesci traveled three hours from Pittsburgh for games and the occasional practice. Last season, Colleen Murphy traveled from North Carolina for games.

California is considerably farther, but Cameranesi seems unfazed, “The foundation that the Pegulas and the rest of the players have already set in Buffalo was an opportunity that I didn’t want to miss out on.” In a follow-up with the Beauts organization, we were told she will spend most of her time in Buffalo and travel back to San Jose during breaks.

Overall, Cameranesi is eager to play in the NWHL because of its mission to grow women’s hockey. She wants to play for the Beauts because of the stability and professionalism Pegula Sports and Entertainment brings to women’s professional hockey. “I’m excited to be a part of the organization and can’t wait to begin my professional career in Buffalo.”

The 22-year-old hinted that her Olympic teammates may sign contracts in the coming weeks. “I know everyone’s excited to be back and hopefully either be a part of the NWHL or CWHL, depending on what people choose.”

While there is a good chance Olympians will return to the NWHL, it’s worth stating the all-or-nothing Team USA approach seems to be a thing of the past at least for now. While the Olympians decided to leave the CWHL in favor of the NWHL in 2015-16, we have already seen defections from the Team USA group mentality.

Shortly after the USA Hockey victory tour, Hilary Knight signed with Les Canadiennes ahead of the Clarkson Cup Playoffs. Sidney Morin announced she will return to Sweden, albeit to a different club, while Cameranesi and Amanda Kessel have decided to remain in the United States.

As we inch closer to the 2018-19 season, it will be interesting to see where — or perhaps what — will attract top NCAA talent and Olympians.