As the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline passed at 3 p.m. on Monday, the Buffalo Sabres sat six points out of a playoff spot. Their big move came Sunday night, when they acquired defenseman Brandon Montour from Anaheim for defensive prospect Brendan Guhle and a 2019 first-round pick. They also added a sixth-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft from Winnipeg for defenseman Nathan Beaulieu.
The push for the playoffs will continue tonight as the Sabres are in Toronto for a 7 p.m. faceoff against the Toronto Maple Leafs. While Montour will not be in the lineup against Toronto, he's expected to suit up tomorrow night against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Sabres general manager Jason Botterill has talked consistently about the necessity to develop both the rookies on the roster like Rasmus Dahlin and Casey Mittelstadt while also working to help make slightly older players like Sam Reinhart better each day. He feels that the move to acquire Montour, who at age 24 is also under contract for next season, helps in both of those areas.
"It's motivation to help our team right now because you want to get into the playoffs and then you're also looking long-term with this team and this organization," Botterill said Monday afternoon at KeyBank Center. "That's why we felt good about making this move. Because it solidified both things: short-term - helping our team getting into the playoffs - and long-term - helping this team grow."
Montour's skillset, especially being a coveted right-hand shot, was also valued.
"We felt this was something that really added value to our team and hopefully improve our ability to get out of our own zone, get the pucks up to our forwards and help our defense create some offense from the back end," Bottterill said.
"…We see a young player who has established himself in the National Hockey League, but we still think there's more of a ceiling there to him."
After the team's morning skate at Scotiabank Arena, players and coaching staff expressed their approval of the deal and were looking forward Montour's debut Tuesday in Philadelphia.
Botterill compared today's reaction to the sentiment when the team acquired Jeff Skinner in August.
"It's exciting when you get your players excited about the teammates that are coming into the organization. To be honest, it was something I underestimated this summer in bringing Jeff Skinner into the group," he said.
"It wasn't a situation about talking about futures or a prospect or anything. He was a player that helped our group right now and I know that got our players very excited."
Botterill is pleased to see his team in the playoff hunt (and that they've just earned three of four points against Tampa Bay and Washington), but as he learned in the Pittsburgh Penguins front office during three Stanley Cup-championship runs, being close is not the ultimate goal.
"We understand the importance of getting to the playoffs and this is a great step right now where we're at, but no one's sitting in here saying, 'Wow, this is great that we're playing in some games.' Guys are hungry," he said.
"I think you've seen it after the games, after the losses, people are certainly disappointed. We've tried to stay a little bit more even-keel, but with a young group, there are certainly highs and lows. …The more we can stay even-keel and bring that consistent effort, it'll eventually get us into, hopefully, the playoffs."
Botterill opened the press conference with some kind parting words for Guhle, who was selected in the second round of the 2015 NHL Draft.
"Our entire staff has really enjoyed working with Brendan over the last couple years, whether it be in Buffalo or in Rochester," Botterill said. "His dedication to the game, his professionalism was very impressive, and I know Brendan's going to have a very bright future in the National Hockey League. It reflects upon an excellent selection by Tim Murray and his staff."