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Sabres trade defenceman Campbell to San Jose for Bernier and first-round pick

BUFFALO, N.Y. - The Buffalo Sabres traded all-star defenceman Brian Campbell to the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday in exchange for right-winger Steve Bernier and a first-round pick in this year's draft.

The Sabres also gave up a seventh-round pick in a deal reached hours before the NHL trade deadline.

In Campbell, the Sharks received a solid two-way player who has been among the league's top puck-moving defencemen the past three seasons. Plagued by inconsistent play at home, the Sharks are fifth in a tight Western Conference race in which five points separate San Jose and ninth-place Phoenix.

Bernier, who has 13 goals and 10 assists in 59 games, is one of the Sharks' several underachieving forwards.

The Sabres made the trade after contract talks with Campbell broke off this past weekend. Campbell, eligible to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, rejected a three-year deal worth more than US$17 million.

Campbell was emotional after learning of the trade, insisting he wanted to remain in Buffalo but was looking for a longer-term deal.

"Frustration, a little bit," Campbell said. "I've got a lot of people and friends here. ... I would've liked to have gotten it done, but it didn't happen."

Sabres general manager Darcy Regier said it became clear he would be forced to trade Campbell to avoid losing him for nothing in free agency.

"In Brian's case, let's be honest, we'd all have preferred to have him here and keep him here," Regier said. "But this is part of the new CBA that we're going to have to deal with."

The Sharks seem to be in position to make the big-money offer Campbell craves after rejecting the Sabres' overtures. After getting burned last season by deadline acquisition Bill Guerin, who left for the Islanders after a terrible rental performance, San Jose general manager Doug Wilson is certain to pursue a long-term deal with Campbell.

San Jose is well under the salary cap, and the club is positioned to add another long-term deal to its books with several of its top players - including Joe Thornton, Evgeni Nabokov and Jonathan Cheechoo - signed to reasonably priced contracts.

The Sharks also shored up their goaltending Tuesday, signing Brian Boucher to a one-year contract. Boucher posted a 23-16-1 record with a 2.47 goals-against average with the Philadelphia Phantoms of the American Hockey League.

Buffalo lost its top defenceman but added depth to a banged-up core of forwards, which is currently without Jochen Hecht (groin), Maxim Afinogenov (groin) and Drew Stafford (ankle).

The Sabres are coming off a 4-3 shootout loss to Philadelphia on Monday, which dropped them behind the Flyers - by virtue of a tiebreaker - into ninth place in the East.

Campbell is tied for seventh among NHL defencemen with 43 points (5 goals, 38 assists) in 62 games, and he was leading the Sabres in logging 25:06 of ice time per game.

Buffalo's sixth-round pick in the 1997 draft, Campbell was in his eighth season with the Sabres.

Campbell's breakout season came in 2005-06, when he produced 44 points, including a career-high 12 goals, and followed that with a career-best, 48-point season (six goals, 42 assists) last season.

The Sharks once had high hopes for Bernier, a first-round pick in 2003 who aspires to be a high-scoring, physical forward in the mold of Luc Robitaille.

Bernier earned a roster spot in San Jose two years ago with a strong rookie campaign, but the Quebec City native had barely progressed since then, reporting to 2006 training camp out of shape and then struggling offensively this season.

"He's a young player that will be able to help us down the road, and the first pick will certainly be something we can convert into a player years down the road, as well," Regier said.

Bernier, who turns 23 next month, has been perhaps the Sharks' biggest disappointment this season other than captain Patrick Marleau, another target of numerous trade rumours.

He learned of the trade while with the Sharks for a game Wednesday at Columbus. Bernier was scheduled to arrive in Buffalo on Tuesday evening, and is anticipated to make his debut Wednesday, when the Sabres host Nashville.

Campbell is the latest core player to depart Buffalo. The team lost both co-captains, Chris Drury and Daniel Briere, to free agency in July.

Campbell won't make his home debut until next week. The Sharks are five games into an eight-game East Coast road trip, their longest of the season, with a game at Columbus on Wednesday night.

The Sharks also traded seldom-used defenceman Rob Davison to the New York Islanders for a seventh-round pick in the upcoming draft. Davison, a bruiser who never earned a regular job in seven seasons with the Sharks organization, likely wouldn't have played much after Campbell's arrival.


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