LOS ANGELES − In a clear effort to give the struggling Rochester Amerks a shakeup, the Buffalo Sabres completed a seven-player trade Saturday night with the Ottawa Senators that featured all minor leaguers.
Longtime Amerks Phil Varone and Jerome Leduc, along with 2015 free-agent signee Jason Akeson, have been dealt to Ottawa in exchange for forwards Cole Schneider, Alex Guptill and Eric O’Dell and defenseman Michael Sdao.
None of the four players acquired have any NHL experience and it’s assumed they will all be assigned to Rochester. The Sabres have yet to indicate their intentions.
Schneider, 25, is a Williamsville native and St. Joe’s graduate who was leading the Binghamton Senators in scoring this year with 42 points (17, goals, 25 assists). The 6-foot-1, 199-pounder has 191 points in 263 career games for Binghamton, having played for them the last four years. He played two seasons at the University of Connecticut.
O’Dell, 25, is Binghamton’s leading goal scorer with 18 goals and has 37 points in 50 games. The 6-3, 190-p0und Guptill has spent most of this season in the ECHL and has one point in three games for Binghamton.
Sdao is a 6-foot-4, 229-pounder who has two assists and a plus-4 rating in 17 games for Binghamton. He was a four-year player at Princeton who has played 123 career games for the B-Sens.
The Amerks were blown out, 10-5, Saturday at Toronto and stand 11th in the AHL’s Eastern Conference, eight points out of a playoff spot. Varone and Akeson were Rochester’s top two scorers with 32 and 30 points, respectively. Varone also led the team with 13 goals. Leduc was Buffalo’s third-round pick in 2010 but never made the NHL. He had seven goals and nine assists in 54 games this year.
Seven games and 21 shots on goal later, Justin Bailey was still looking for his elusive first NHL goal Saturday night in Staples Center. The Williamsville native had seven shots in his first NHL game Feb. 11 in Philadelphia and at least two per night since.
But no goals yet. Is he frustrated? Nope.
“I think my first goal was meant to come in Philly and it didn’t happen but I try not to think about it too much,” Bailey said during the team’s West Coast trip. “It’s a positive to me that I’m creating chances and a lot of chances. It has to be a matter of time.
“Once it comes, I’ll get even more comfortable. I’ll have more of a feel how to score at this level. I’m getting in the right situations, the goalies are making good saves. It will come.”
After playing much of this trip with Sam Reinhart and Evander Kane, Bailey opened with Nicolas Deslauriers and David Legwand for Saturday’s game against the Los Angeles Kings, which was not complete in time for this edition.
Bailey was stopped by Frederik Andersen on a rebound while trying to score on a 3-on-1 break during Wednesday’s 1-0 loss in Anaheim, and was also stymied by San Jose’s Martin Jones off a Kane feed during Friday’s 3-1 win over the Sharks. Bailey is pleased with the roles coach Dan Bylsma has given him. He played 14:04 Friday night, the most in his seven games.
“To me, getting that chance is an unsaid sign that he wants me to produce some offense for this team,” Bailey said. “I think I can with my size and speed.”
The 20-year-old has not looked out of place at all in the NHL, displaying the kind of speed and power than lured the Sabres to draft him in the second round in 2013.
Bailey had 10 goals and 26 points over 49 games in Rochester, and was heating up in his first pro season. The Sabres sent him back down but gave him positive feedback, hoping to see him continue to get regular playing time. He re-emerged in Buffalo two games later after the injury to Ryan O’Reilly.
Bailey’s mother tweeted a picture last week of her son during warmups Sunday in First Niagara Center with Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby behind him; Bailey has had a Crosby poster in his room and said each game has similar moments.
“You grow up watching Sidney Crosby as one of the great players in the league so it was a cool experience,” he said. “I’m finding every night there’s a guy on every team in every game I’ve played. You think about Jarome Iginla, Erik Karlsson, the guys on these Western teams. There’s always that guy where you’re thinking, ‘Wow, he’s a stud’ and it’s great to get the chance to play against those kind of guys.”
Robin Lehner returned to the net for the Sabres Saturday night after Chad Johnson made 24 saves in the win in San Jose. Lehner had started the previous five. The Kings have a game Sunday night in Anaheim so backup and former Sabre Jhonas Enroth played against Buffalo in place of Jonathan Quick.
The Sabres won Friday’s game as Zach Bogosian’s shot from the right point tipped off Sharks forward Tomas Hertl and beat Jones to snap a tie with 7:22 left.
“I tried to make a little fake to open up a lane and I shot it,” said Bogosian, who fed Kane for the empty-netter that clinched the win. “Sometimes those ones go in. The hockey gods I guess liked me today.”
Johnson gave up a goal on the first shot he faced, by Marc Eduoard Vlasic at 1:32 of the first period, then stopped all 24 he saw the rest of the way. Afterward, he admitted the looming trade deadline is wearing on him.
“It’s an uneasy sort of time right now,” Johnson said. “You kind of just want to get it over with, to be honest.”
St. Louis and San Jose, the two teams most prominently mentioned as looking for backup goaltending help, have now made trades to acquire one in Edmonton’s Anders Nilsson and Toronto’s James Reimer, respectively. Johnson remains with Buffalo for now.
Bylsma was cautious about overworking any of his players in San Jose and still came out with a victory. Defensive stalwarts Rasmus Ristolainen (23:37) and Bogosian (22:13) weren’t overworked as Byslma got 14:25 from Carlo Colaiacovo, his biggest contribution since Dec. 7. Kane (20:57) was the only forward over 20 minutes.
“We did a pretty good job last night of being able to use everybody, roll four lines and not tax too many people,” Bylsma said. “We certainly made some decisions last night knowing we’d be playing back to back and playing three in four nights. It got a lot of guys a chance to play.”
The Sabres were scheduled to fly home Sunday morning and take the day off.