One of the Buffalo Sabres’ objectives for next season is clearly to get Tyler Myers back to his Calder Trophy-winning form, so the team is taking a turn-back-the-clock approach with its big-money defenseman.
Sunday, the Sabres reacquired 34-year-old Henrik Tallinder – Myers’ partner in his strongest NHL season – from the New Jersey Devils for minor-league winger Riley Boychuk.
Tallinder has spent the last three years in New Jersey after leaving Buffalo as a free agent in 2010. In the 2009-10 season, he was the rock as Myers’ defense partner during Myers’ breakout rookie year. Tallinder’s career with the Devils never really panned out, as he spent the last two years battling injuries and sitting out as a healthy scratch.
Tallinder played in 25 games last season, posting one goal and three assists with an even rating. He was minus-11 during the 2011-12 season and was a healthy scratch through a good chunk of the Devils’ run to the Stanley Cup final.
“We are excited to have Henrik back in the mix on our blue line,” Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier said in a release from the team. “His experience will be invaluable not only in adding more stability to our back end, but also in the development of some of our younger defensemen.”
Tallinder could not be reached for comment on the trade. Reached Sunday night at the family home in Stockholm, Sweden, Tallinder’s father said his son learned of the deal just before he boarded a ferry en route to Turku, Finland, with his wife and children to visit his wife’s parents. The ferry ride was scheduled to last nearly 12 hours.
Tallinder played with Sabres goaltender Jhonas Enroth on the Swedish national team that won the world championships in May in Stockholm, and he posted a team-high plus-7 rating in 10 games. He has also been invited to camp for the team that will represent Sweden in the Sochi Olympics.
“He’s a regular defenseman and he wasn’t playing regularly,” Devils GM Lou Lamoriello told New Jersey reporters. “It was a mutual understanding that I would try and do something with him. This will leave room for the kids.”
Tallinder was Buffalo’s No. 2 pick in the 1997 draft and spent parts of eight seasons with the Sabres. He was one of the key members of the defense of the 2006 team that got to the Eastern Conference finals, and the broken arm he suffered in Game Four proved to be a major factor in the seven-game loss to Carolina. Tallinder had career highs in goals (6) and points (21) that season.
Tallinder is a favorite of Sabres owner Terry Pegula. In a meeting with reporters and editors of The Buffalo News on the day he took over the team in 2011, Pegula said he felt the losses of Tallinder and fellow blue-liner Toni Lydman to free agency following the 2009-10 season under former owner Tom Golisano should have been considered equally as significant as the departures of co-captains Daniel Briere and Chris Drury in 2007.
Tallinder signed a four-year, $13.5 million contract with the Devils on July 1, 2010, after the Sabres declined to give him more than a two-year offer. On the same day, Buffalo lost Lydman to Anaheim but signed Jordan Leopold to a three-year deal. Oddly enough, Lydman remains an unsigned free agent as his deal with the Ducks ran out after this season.
Tallinder will make $3.5 million next season, with a cap hit of $3.375 million. He made $3.25 million in his final year in Buffalo.
The deal leaves the Sabres with a shade more than $11.1 million in cap space for next season, according to Capgeek.com. The Devils have just over $7.1 million but still need to sign restricted free agent forward Adam Henrique and hope to re-sign defenseman Marek Zidlicky, an unrestricted free agent.
Boychuk was Buffalo’s seventh-round pick in 2010. He spent last year with Fort Worth of the Central League and clearly didn’t figure into Buffalo’s plans. He played 26 games in Rochester in 2011-12 without scoring a goal.
Tallinder has played 614 career NHL games overall and his total of 468 with Buffalo ranks 11th among all defensemen in franchise history. Of course, that also now ranks him first on Buffalo’s youthful blue line.
The addition of Tallinder gives the Sabres eight defensemen who played in the NHL last year plus No. 1 draft pick Rasmus Ristolainen. Barring further moves, Myers, Tallinder, Christian Ehrhoff and Mike Weber would have spots locked up. Alexander Sulzer, Jamie McBain, Mark Pysyk, Chad Ruhwedel, Brayden McNabb and Ristolainen would all be in the mix for the remaining spots.