BUFFALO, N.Y. – The Buffalo Sabres re-signed one centre, traded for another, and secured a backup goalie for their playoff push in a flurry of deals as the NHL trade deadline arrived Wednesday.
Making a drive to reach the post-season, the Sabres signed slick-skating Tim Connolly to a two-year, US$9-million contract extension, acquired third-line centre Dominic Moore from Toronto, and picked up goaltender Mikael Tellqvist from Phoenix all in a four-hour period.
The Sabres also shipped winger Ales Kotalik to Edmonton in exchange for a second-round pick in 2009 that the Oilers acquired in an earlier trade with Carolina.
Both Kotalik and Moore will be unrestricted free agents following the season.
After locking up Connolly in the morning, Sabres general manager Darcy Regier bolstered the team’s depth at centre by picking up Moore from the Maple Leafs, using the second-round pick they had just acquired from Edmonton.
“Our intention is to bring Dominic in to help us through the balance of the year,” Regier said. “I leave it open after that.”
Moore has emerged as a solid two-way centre this year, and is enjoying his best offensive season of his five-year career. He’s already surpassed career highs in goals (12) and points (41) in 63 games.
The Sabres will be Moore’s fifth team since being drafted by the New York Rangers in the third round of the 2000 draft
“We had an opportunity to get a centre and someone who can play in different roles,” Regier said. “It’s a little bit of a different flavour.”
Connolly, whose current three-year deal expires after this season, will remain a major part of the Sabres’ late-season playoff drive after the playmaking centre’s name was involved in trade speculation leading up to the deadline.
“From our side – ownership, management and the coaching staff – this is a big thing for us and an important step in the progress of this hockey club and the future of this hockey club,” Regier said. “Coming into the trade deadline, this was the most important thing we could accomplish.”
Buffalo gave up a fourth-round draft pick in 2010 for Tellqvist, who is 7-5-1 in 15 appearances this season. He strengthens Buffalo’s depth behind Patrick Lalime, who has taken over the starting job in place of injured Ryan Miller.
“We felt it was very important, given the schedule and the uncertainty of Ryan’s situation, that we have an understanding of what is the best-case scenario and a worst-case scenario,” Regier said. “We looked at four sets of three games in four nights coming up over the next month, and we wanted to make sure we had support for the club, and specifically Patrick Lalime.”
Tellqvist is due to become an unrestricted free agent after earning US$800,000 this season.
The signing of Connolly quickly confirmed the Sabres are not giving up on making the post-season this year. Entering Wednesday night’s game against Montreal, Buffalo is in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, two points behind ninth-place Carolina and three points behind Pittsburgh, which currently holds the eighth and final playoff spot.
“For us, it’s better than a trade,” Regier said. “In order to keep Tim and not give up any assets, I think it’s a terrific day.”
The oft-injured centre was signed to a three-year deal worth almost $9 million after his breakout 2005-06 season when he recorded career highs in goals (16) and points (55) in 63 games. But Connolly has battled a variety of injuries in his career, including a concussion that forced him to miss the entire 2003-04 season and all but two games of the 2006-07 regular season.
This year, Connolly has 26 points in 29 games, but he’s missed more than 30 games due to a broken rib and broken vertebra.
“The hope was to stay here,” Connolly said. “This was the No. 1 option. It’s what I wanted. We have a great bunch of guys, and have a chance to win here for years to come.”
Meanwhile, Regier was unable to deal disgruntled winger Maxim Afinogenov, who had requested a trade. Afinogenov was in the lineup against the Canadiens on Wednesday night after missing 24 games because of a groin injury.