Nathan Beaulieu knew a move was coming, he just didn't know when.
With less than an hour to go until the NHL's trade freeze on Saturday afternoon, Beaulieu got the call. The Buffalo Sabres acquired the left-shot defenseman from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for a third-round pick in next weekend's NHL Draft.
One day and one phone call with Sabres management later, it sounded like Beaulieu was pleased with the destination.
"I see a huge opportunity," he said in a conference call on Sunday. "I'm very fortunate that I'm staying close to home and Buffalo has such a young, bright future. Talking to management yesterday, I feel like I'm going to fit right into that process right away. I'm just really refreshed and excited, super happy."
Beaulieu, 24, spent parts of five seasons with the Canadiens, who drafted him with the 17th pick in 2011. He averaged a career-high 19:29 of ice time last season, but could see his time with the organization coming to an end when he was a healthy scratch in Game 6 of Montreal's first-round series against the New York Rangers last month.
"I think that was kind of the cherry on the top of a situation that was kind of over with, I guess," Beaulieu said. "I wasn't expecting to be put in that situation, and after I was I felt pretty strongly that a move like this was going to be made and was going to be best for me."
Had Beaulieu not been moved by 3 p.m. on Saturday, the question would have arose as to whether or not he'd be available for selection by Las Vegas in this week's expansion draft. He called it relieving not only to have rid himself of the uncertainty (he was one of three defensemen, along with Jake McCabe and Rasmus Ristolainen, to be protected by the Sabres), but to finally feel that he's in the right situation.
He should be plenty familiar with Buffalo, too, having shared a division with the Sabres for his entire career. It sounds as though the Sabres' young core made an impression on him over the past two seasons.
"The biggest thing is youth and how energetic it was to play against them," he said. "Young teams are scary to play against because you don't really know what to expect … Every team knows in the League that Buffalo is young and has a great future ahead of them so I'm just very fortunate to be a part of that."
Sabres general manager Jason Botterill pointed to the defense as an area in need of improvement upon being hired last month. Beaulieu is the second addition made to that end, joining fellow left-shot defenseman Victor Antipin. Both players were added with hopes of contributing to Buffalo's ability to move the puck up the ice in transition.
The Sabres also added a pretty good puck-moving defenseman in new coach Phil Housley, who was hired by the team last Thursday.
"I'm so excited because the style of play he wants to put forth is going to fit right into my game," Beaulieu said. "I've got a huge opportunity here to really grow my game with a guy who played the game similar to how I would like to play."