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Sabres trade D Campbell to San Jose for RW Bernier and 1st-round pick

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -Sabres All-Star defenseman Brian Campbell was traded Tuesday to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for right wing Steve Bernier and a first-round pick in this year's draft.

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

In Campbell, the Sharks get a solid two-way player who has been among the league's top puck-moving defensemen over the past three seasons, bolstering their back line as they attempt to make a late-season playoff push. 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 just 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 the team's offer of a three-year deal worth more than $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 with the team.

"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, or potentially lose 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 apparently craves after rejecting the Sabres' overtures - and 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 current 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.

Buffalo loses its top defenseman but adds depth to a banged-up core of forwards, which is currently minus Gotten Hoechst (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 into a tie with the Flyers for eighth place in the East. Philadelphia, however, holds the edge on the conference's eighth and final playoff berth because it has one more win than Buffalo.

Campbell leads Sabres defensemen and is tied for seventh among NHL defensemen with 43 points (five goals and 38 assists) in 62 games, and he was leading the team in logging 25:06 of ice-time a game.

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

Campbell proved to be a late bloomer, managing 41 points (nine goals, 32 assists) in his first five seasons.

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

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 rumors.

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 will be in for a transition from hockey-loving Buffalo, where his every contract fluctuation was heavily analyzed, to laid-back San Jose, where the Sharks get barely more attention than the ArenaBowl champion SaberCats who share a building with them. Some players thrive when the spotlight goes off, including solid defenseman Craig Rivet, one of the Sharks' two late-season acquisitions last year.

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.

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