The underachieving Buffalo Sabres began retooling for the future by trading defenseman Jordan Leopold to the contending St. Louis Blues on Saturday.
The move was announced hours before Buffalo hosted the Washington Capitals. And it could be the first of many for the Sabres before the NHL trade deadline on Wednesday.
In exchange for Leopold, Buffalo received a second-round pick and a conditional fifth-round selection in the June draft.
Leopold is a 10-year NHL veteran who has spent the past three seasons in Buffalo. He has two goals and six assists in 24 games this season in the final year of his contract.
”He provides us with stability and experience back there,” Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said during a conference call. ”He’s a guy that’s going to come in here and give us a good steady influence on our back end.”
Armstrong noted Leopold can play in every situation, including the power play, and ranked second among the Sabres with an average of more than 21 minutes in ice time per game.
Leopold has 65 goals and 202 points in 610 career games for Calgary, Colorado, Florida, Pittsburgh and Buffalo. Leopold enjoyed his best season with Buffalo in 2010-11, when he reached career highs with 13 goals and 35 points.
The Blues (17-14-2) were in need of help after losing three in a row and four of five. They began the day in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, a point ahead of Dallas and Columbus.
”We feel a lot stronger. We feel our depth is much more improved as of 3 o’clock today than it was 3 o’clock yesterday,” Armstrong said. ”Our goal, first and foremost, we have to get into the playoffs. We’ve put ourselves in a position where we’re going to have to work hard to maintain our position and improve it.”
The Sabres (13-16-5) have been inconsistent in a season in which they’ve already fired coach Lindy Ruff. Buffalo is 3-1-1 in its past five, but began the day sitting 12th in the East.
”His contract’s up at the end of the year, and where we are as an organization, it’s an opportunity to get something that’s more focused on the future,” Sabres general manager Darcy Regier said.
Regier suggested everyone on the roster is available for the right price – including goalie Ryan Miller.
”Listen, where our hockey club is right now, we have to be open to listening to just about anything and everything,” he said when asked about Miller. ”I have talked to all 29 GMs over the last week, and I’ll continue to try to figure out ways that we can get better not just for the rest of this year but, more importantly, for the future.”
Miller, captain Jason Pominville and leading scorer Thomas Vanek each have one more season left on their contracts.
The Sabres have traded away two defensemen this month, after T.J. Brennan was dealt to Florida on March 15 in exchange for a fifth-round pick.
Earlier in the day, the Blues assigned goalie Jake Allen to Peoria, their American Hockey League affiliate.