The Buffalo Sabres traded center Eric Staal to the Montreal Canadiens for two draft picks on Friday, ending a brief and disappointing run for the veteran star in Buffalo.
The Canadiens sent 2021 third- and fifth-round draft picks to Buffalo for Staal. The Sabres retained 50% of Staal’s salary: $1.625 million of his $3.25 million cap hit.
Staal, 36, played 32 games for Buffalo this season after being acquired from the Minnesota Wild in the offseason. Much was expected from the veteran center, but like the rest of the last-place Sabres he was a disappointment: three goals, seven assists and a minus-20 in those games.
Staal is in his 17th NHL season, having scored 1,031 points in 1,272 regular-season games with the Carolina Hurricanes, New York Rangers, Minnesota Wild and the Sabres.
Montreal was in need of a veteran center who could help in the faceoff circle. Staal has a 49.1% success rate on faceoffs in his career. The Canadiens were right up against the salary cap, but were able to make the deal work with Buffalo retaining a percentage of Staal’s salary and by dropping veteran forward Paul Byron ($2,325,000 AAV) to the taxi squad.
“At the end of the day, it always comes back to the cap,” GM Marc Bergevin said on Thursday. “Once you’re a team that’s up against the cap, it’s money in and money out.”
The move comes as the Canadian government will reportedly reduce its federal quarantine from 14 days to seven days for NHL players traded from U.S. teams, a move that could be official as early as Friday.