One of the top priorities for general manager Kevyn Adams during his first offseason was to add a bonafide second-line center behind Jack Eichel. The Sabres got their man in September, acquiring Eric Staal from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Marcus Johansson.
Staal - who ranks in the top 10 among active players in games played (7th), goals (6th), and points (8th) - instantly stood out for his veteran presence upon arriving at training camp.
"Eric has just come into this responsibility and this challenge with an unbelievably hungry mindset," Krueger said following the second practice of camp. "You can feel he wants something to happen here and he believes something's gonna happen here, and he wants to be a part of it.
"You don't feel the age at all in his spirit, and that's important. So, we get the experience, we get the know-how, we get the underlining of the culture that we want here. We like to treat people right. We like that human element to be on the right level, and Eric, he is that in every way, shape, or form."
Here is a look at the centerman entering 2020-21.
Video: Coming This Season: Eric Staal
One big question: How far will his impact extend?
On the ice, the hope is for Staal to give the Sabres two legitimate scoring lines. The 36-year-old was selected to the All-Star Game just last season, when he tallied 47 points (19+28) in 66 games with the Wild. He is only two seasons removed from a 42-goal, 76-point campaign in 2017-18.
But his presence might be felt off the ice as well. Few players come with Staal's pedigree as a veteran of 16 seasons and a member of the exclusive Triple Gold Club, comprised of players who have won the Stanley Cup and gold medals at both the Olympics and the World Championship.
"He just has such a calm demeanor and he just has such an honest aura around him," Krueger said. "In the hard times, I like us to look it in the eyes, communicate like men about the problems and then move forward.
"With somebody like that in the room … we've got more voices doing that. We felt we had a lot of guys doing that last year, but not the whole room. Somebody like that will make sure that our mindset stays on the things we can change, on the things we can influence."
Number to know: 81
Staal scored 81 of his 111 goals during the past four seasons at even strength. That number ranked 21st in the NHL during that span. He averaged two points per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 last season, which would have led the Sabres.
Linemate Sam Reinhart on his early impressions of Staal: "First impression is when you're getting him the puck, he's such a big guy you might have to pass it three feet outside of him as opposed to at him. He's got so much skill. He gets up and down the ice so effortlessly because he's such a big guy."
We mic'd up Staal for his first training camp scrimmage. Check it out below.
Video: Eric Staal mic'd up during the Blue & Gold Scrimmage