The Buffalo Sabres’ 4-1 win Tuesday in Pittsburgh ended the Penguins’ 15-game winning streak and was easily their most complete game of the year. After the game, Steve Ott told Brian Engblom of the NBC Sports Network that he wanted General Manager Darcy Regier to be a buyer at the trade deadline rather than a seller.
Obviously, Ott didn’t get his wish. The locker to his right in the Sabres’ dressing room was empty Friday because captain Jason Pominville is in Minnesota, sent packing Wednesday.
“It was tough. Let’s be honest,” Ott said prior to the game against Ottawa in First Niagara Center. “What Jason has done for the Buffalo Sabres over the last 10 years or so is unbelievable. He’s a heckuva player. It’s not easy to replace a guy like that. It takes years to build a prospect into a Jason Pominville. It’s disheartening in the fact that our team obviously wasn’t playing up to where it needs to be.”
Ott said he was hoping Regier would have added to the team because he hasn’t given up on the playoff race.
“You always want to have hope and we still have hope in this dressing room,” Ott insisted. “We have eight home games left [prior to Friday] and three on the road. A little bit of our destiny is in our hands but we have to win games. That’s a fact of where we are right now.”
Ott’s contract runs through next year and like teammates Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller, he said he’d like to talk to Regier about the franchise’s rebuilding plans.
“I think we all are [interested], absolutely,” Ott said. “I’m 30 years old. I don’t know like everybody else where everybody stands. In these type of moments, you look at where you are. Obviously I came in here with aspirations of staying hopefully for a long time and that’s up to Darcy and management to do so. I go out there and I’m just a hockey player. We’ll let the management do their job.”
The Sabres made Ott an alternate captain in the wake of Pominville’s departure and he said he was “humbled and honored” by that distinction, even if he doesn’t need an actual letter on his sweater to lead.
Plenty of observers think Ott could be the permanent captain next season. Of course, he would likely need to sign an extension to get that title.
“That’s definitely not even on my radar,” Ott said of the captaincy. “No particular feelings about myself. I truly just want to be a hockey player on this team and be successful here. And that’s the main focus, having a successful team, being a playoff team and being committed to the city rather than any leadership role.
“I don’t look at a letter or title as anything,” Ott said. “Leadership is a mindset. Everybody out here leads in their own way.”
Drew Stafford was relieved to still be in Buffalo after weeks of rumors that he was going elsewhere at the deadline.
“Near the end there, my phone was blowing up around 4 o’clock that something was going on,” Stafford said. “I didn’t know what the story was or where that started. It was definitely stressful. Just thankful that now it’s behind me.”
Stafford reiterated that he wanted to stay with the Sabres.
“I’m definitely happy with the way it worked out,” he said.
“It is a business and Darcy has to make decisions. If I was one of the guys that had to be moved out of here, I’d have to accept that and move forward. At the same time, it didn’t happen so now my focus is staying here and continuing to try to get better.
It took a long time for the Pominville trade to be finalized and registered by the league Wednesday and, as it turns out, the reason was money. The Wild was very tight to the salary cap and the Sabres have retained some of Pominville’s salary on their cap the next two years.
According to capgeek.com, the figure is $795,000 for next year. Although common in other sports, salary retention had not previously been an option for NHL teams before but was added in the new collective bargaining agreement.
Johan Larsson and Matt Hackett, the two prospects acquired from Minnesota for Pominville, dressed for the Amerks Friday night against Lake Erie. Hackett was the backup goalie to David Leggio.
Larsson scored a goal for Rochester in a 3-1 loss to Lake Erie.