Jason Pominville had never given too much thought about one day returning to Buffalo, but he was excited about the prospect after being informed that he had been traded to the Sabres on Friday morning.
Pominville knows, after all, almost everything there is to know about the city: the neighborhoods, the people, the building he'll be playing in. The one aspect of moving from St. Paul that did make him nervous was the reaction of his 7-year-old son and soon-to-be 6-year-old daughter.
Shortly after, his kids were already wearing his Sabres jersey and he knew he had nothing to worry about.
"My little guy said, 'Oh, you're going to have the chance to pay with Jack Eichel!" Pominville said. "He's pumped."
Pominville was acquired by the Sabres along with defenseman Marco Scandella and a fourth-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft in exchange for Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno and a third-round pick in 2018.
The name should be familiar to fans in Buffalo. Pominville played parts of nine seasons with the Sabres, was team captain for two of them, and produced one of the franchise's most memorable highlights with his shorthanded goal in overtime of Game 5 against Ottawa during the team's postseason run in 2006. His 456 points rank 11th in franchise history.
Buffalo's current roster, however, won't be all that familiar to Pominville. The trade that sent him to Minnesota in 2013 set the course of a rebuild for the Sabres, which saw names such as Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller follow suit in trades thereafter. Ironically, Ennis and Foligno were the last two players on the team who were around to play with Pominville.
What Pominville does know after speaking with general manager Jason Botterill (a former teammate in Rochester) and coach Phil Housley is that he's excited about the direction the franchise is heading in and the young core already in place, with Eichel and Ryan O'Reilly at the top.
Pominville clearly believes he can add to that mix. He scored 47 points (13+34) in 78 games last season despite seeing his overall ice time and power-play time decrease under new Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. He felt his best stretches came when he was getting more touches.
"You don't get as many touches and you might not feel as good with the puck when you're not on the power play," he said. "I still think I can be a good player and help the team out. Whether it's an offensive role, a checking role or whatever role I'm put in, I can help in both situations for sure."
Pominville also spoke highly of Scandella, who follows Victor Antipin and Nathan Beaulieu as the latest addition made by Botterill in an attempt to retool the Buffalo blue line. He said the pair of Scandella and Jared Spurgeon was arguably Minnesota's best prior to being broken up this past season.
"Scandella's going to be a big part of the team as well," he said. "He's a beast, a horse to play against. I mean, really competitive and has a rocket of the shot so he'll be a big add to the team."
Pominville said he still talks about what it was like to be a Sabre during the team's back-to-back runs to the Eastern Conference Final in 2005-06 and 2007-06, back when thousands of fans crowded outside the arena just to watch the game on a screen. His presence alone brings back fond memories of those times.
His goal, though, is to bring back that feeling for real.
"Hopefully we can bring that same buzz to the city again and get into the playoffs and create that atmosphere again," he said. "I still talk about it, it's still probably up there in my hockey memories and everything so it was definitely a thrill being there.
"I've seen it before and you want younger players to have a chance to see and to live what we were able to do. Hopefully we can live up to those expectations and exceed them."