The Buffalo Sabres’ overhaul has begun, with the spiraling team trading veteran centre Eric Staal to the Montreal Canadiens on Friday.
Buffalo acquired the Canadiens’ third and fifth-round selections in the 2021 draft. The Sabres also agreed to retain $1.625 million of the final year of Staal’s salary.
Staal is a 17-year veteran, who can provide the Canadiens a late-season boost to their playoff hopes. Staal won’t be able to join the team immediately because he will have to first go into self-quarantine under Canadian health regulations for those travelling from outside the country.
Montreal is 2-2-2 in its past six and 14-8-9 overall. With 37 points, the Canadiens sit fourth in the North Division, two ahead of Vancouver and four up on Calgary.
The Sabres, by comparison, are in sell-off mode.
The move comes a day after the Sabres extended their franchise-worst winless skid to 16 games with a 4-0 loss at Pittsburgh. Buffalo, which plays at Boston on Saturday, is 0-14-2 in its past 16, which marks the NHL’s longest streak since the Penguins went 0-17-1 during the 2003-04 season.
The Sabres have a league-low six wins and been shut out seven times this season, while all but mathematically in position to extend their playoff drought to a NHL record-matching 10th season.
Staal is expected to be but the first of several Sabres on the move before the NHL’s trade deadline on April 12.
Forward Taylor Hall, signed in October to a one-year, $8 million contract, acknowledged following the loss at Pittsburgh that he would be open to waiving his no-trade clause. Others on the trade block include defencemen Brandon Montour and Colin Miller.
The Sabres acquired Staal in a trade that sent forward Marcus Johansson to Minnesota in September. It was the first trade completed by Sabres GM Kevyn Adams, who took over after Jason Botterill was fired in June.
Adams was teammates with Staal on the Carolina Hurricanes’ 2006 Stanley Cup championship team. Staal was targeted to address Buffalo’s need for a second-line centre, and added experienced leadership to a team with a reputation of being fragile.
An 11-time 20 goal scorer, Staal has managed just three goals and 10 points in 32 games, and hasn’t scored in his past 23.
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