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Regehr likes what he sees Veteran feeling positive after trade to Sabres NHL draft: Buffalo takes defenseman with local roots and a highly rated Sault Ste. Marie center

Robyn Regehr's life is pretty busy. He's a month away from welcoming his second child into the world. He's preparing for the funeral of the man who signed his paychecks for 11 years. So with all that going on, he never figured he'd be sitting at the airport Saturday afternoon waiting for three unexpected guests.

Yet there he was, hanging out in the terminal in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. Know what? He was actually pleased to do it.

The defenseman decided late Friday night to waive his no-movement clause with the Calgary Flames, paving the way for Saturday morning's trade to the Buffalo Sabres. Hours later, he went to the airport to pick up team owners Terry and Kim Pegula, and coach Lindy Ruff, for a team welcome session.

It was a meeting that almost didn't happen. Regehr originally declined to waive his contract option in order to examine other trade scenarios. After talking with numerous people connected to the Sabres' organization, he changed his mind.

"There were a lot of things, a lot of questions that I asked," Regehr told The News by phone. "I had some really great conversations, and I'm very happy with the decision we made."

Not as happy as the Sabres, of course. They pushed hard to convince the 31-year-old to come to Buffalo. The 6-foot-3, 226-pounder fills several needs. He's a physical presence on the blue line and a veteran leader, one who will help tutor a defense corps that has four players aged 25 or younger.

"It took a little longer than we were hoping, but it's done and real positive for us," Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier said at the NHL entry draft. "With the history that he has and the age he's at, years ahead to play, I think he can really do a lot for our younger defensemen. The fact that his size, the fact that he's a left shot, I think it fits very well for us."

The package also included former Buffalo forward Ales Kotalik returning to the Sabres, along with a second-round pick in the 2012 draft. The Sabres sent defenseman Chris Butler and center Paul Byron to Calgary.

"It was not a case where we were looking to unload Robyn," Flames GM Jay Feaster said in Xcel Energy Center. "Robyn has been a tremendous hockey player for our club and has been there for a very long time. It's difficult when you move a guy that is a core player.

"At the same time, we've been in salary cap jail for some time. This gives us an opportunity to have some breathing room and get a fresh start."

The monetary exchange is lopsided. Regehr has two years left on his contract with a cap hit of $4.02 million to go with his $4 million salary. Kotalik, who split last season between the Flames and their minor-league team, has a $3 million salary and cap number.

Butler is a restricted free agent who made $850,000 last year. Byron will make $555,000 in the final year of his entry-level contract.

While Regehr will no doubt be a key piece of the Sabres' 2011-12 season, Kotalik is a question mark. The 32-year-old had four goals and six points in 26 games with the Flames last season, and he recorded six goals and 22 points in 25 games with Abbotsford of the American Hockey League.

He spent his first seven seasons with the Sabres and could return to his role as a third-line winger who plays the point on the power play. The Sabres also have the financial wherewithal to send him to their new affiliate in Rochester and call him up if injuries occur. Regier said the Sabres have no plans to buy out Kotalik or any other player this month.

"Al can play in the National Hockey League," Regier said. "He played an important role for us, and we expect him to come into [training] camp and compete for a position."

Butler was the key piece of the deal for the Flames. The 24-year-old has spent the last three seasons with the Sabres after being selected in the fourth round in 2005. He has been in and out of the lineup the last two seasons but finally solidified a starting role with a good second half last year.

"It was definitely surprising at first, but when you kind of sit back and look at it, they have a lot of good young defensemen. I'm not surprised they ended up moving someone," Butler said by phone from his home in St. Louis. "[The Flames] seem like they're real excited to have me on board, and the feeling is definitely mutual."

The 22-year-old Byron, a sixth-round selection in 2007, made his NHL debut last season. He played eight games, recording one goal and one assist.

Regehr was anticipating Ruff's arrival so he could learn what his role will be, though he already had a good idea. While he's not quite done with his former team -- he will attend the funeral of Flames co-owner Harley Hotchkiss -- Regehr is looking forward to being a leader on a Sabres team he feels is on the rise.

"I want to have a real good idea of what they expect me to bring to the team, and I'm going to try to do that," Regehr said. "I also have experience to draw from. I've been involved with leadership groups on teams, so with a young team like Buffalo, those are kind of the areas that they're going to want me to focus on, as well as being physical, being as physical as I can back there and helping young guys like Tyler Myers or [Mike] Weber back on the point.

"They're a young team. I think they have lots of potential. I think they have world-class goaltending, which is a big thing. I think they're not far away from being a contender each and every year, and that, as a player, that's what you want, a chance to win the Stanley Cup each and every year."

e-mail: jvogl@buffnews.com