Nathan Beaulieu had an inkling his time in Montreal might be winding down. When he was a healthy scratch for the Game Six loss to the New York Rangers that eliminated the Canadiens in the first round, he was sure of it.
All that was left was to see if he was going to get traded or left unprotected for the expansion draft. Things crystallized for Beaulieu over the weekend. He was traded to the Sabres on Saturday and protected from the Vegas Golden Knights by the club on Sunday.
Pencil him into Buffalo's defense corps for opening night of the season.
"It's a huge opportunity," Beaulieu, 24, said on a conference call Sunday. "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 very refreshed, excited and super happy."
Beaulieu, a No. 1 draft choice in 2011, no longer felt that way in Montreal. The playoff scratch cemented his feelings and GM Marc Bergevin criticized his play to the media during the team's exit interviews.
"I think that was kind of the cherry on top of the situation," he said of being scratched. "I wasn't expecting to be put in that situation. After that, I felt pretty strongly a move like this was going to be made and it would be best for me."
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Beaulieu set career highs in games (74), goals (4), assists (24) and points (28) for the Habs last season. He's the kind of puck mover that will fit into new coach Phil Housley's attacking scheme. Beaulieu said they spoke briefly on Saturday.
"I don't know much about Phil besides the great career he had," Beaulieu said. "I'm excited because the style of play is going to fit right into my game. I got a huge opportunity here to really grow my game with a guy that played the way I like to."
Pressed on the call by Montreal reporters about his three years with the Habs, Beaulieu said he was already looking forward to being part of the new era in Buffalo with Housley and General Manager Jason Botterill.
"Young teams are scary to play against because you don't know what to expect," he said. "Every team in the league knows about Buffalo. They're young and have a bright future ahead."