ANAHEIM -- The first shoe has dropped for the Buffalo Sabres, six days before the NHL trade deadline hits.
Defenseman Mike Weber -- the longest-running member of the organization -- was traded to the Washington Capitals late this afternoon for a third-round pick in the 2017 draft. The deal was announced about 40 minutes after the team completed practice in the Honda Center.
"It's something you knew is a possible reality," Weber told Buffalo reporters this evening at the team hotel here. "It was a little surreal. Obviously I was just with the boys after practice and we were going to have some lunch. It's tough. It's something that's always talked about but until it happens to you, well, I don't even know the feeling I'm feeling right now."
Weber, 28, was a second-round pick of the Sabres in 2006. He is an unrestricted free agent after the season. According to the Washington Post, the Sabres are retaining half of Weber's $1.67 million cap hit.
Read today's story by John Vogl, which proved prescient, on Weber's thoughts on potentially leaving Buffalo.
"It's difficult to trade someone that has been a part of the organization but 10 years but I think this is a good opportunity for the player and for our organization," Sabres general manager Tim Murray said in a statement. "I would like to thank Mike for his time with the Sabres and wish him the best in Washington."
"We are pleased to welcome Mike to our organization." Capitals GM Brian MacLellan said in a statement. "Mike is a stay-at-home defenseman who plays a physical game and is respected by his teamates. We felt it was important to add depth to our blueline by adding another quality veteran defenseman."
Weber has one goal and four assists this season in 35 games for the Sabres and is going to the team that has been atop the NHL's overall standing much of the season.
"I've been a part of this organization since 2006 but I want to thank the organization, the management at the time and the management now for keeping me around this long," Weber said. "I can't express the life-changing thing the city of Buffalo the organization has been able to provide me and my family. I really feel a part of the community.
"I tried to do everything I could when I put that sweater over my head to bring whatever I had and to play hard and do what my skill provided me to do. There's been a lot of great teamates I've had and guys in the locker room.
"I wish the organization and especially the boys in the room the very best going forward. Hopefully they get a chance to do something extremely special here in the future."
The Capitals beat Arizona, 3-2, Monday night -- becoming the first team in NHL history to post 44 wins in the first 58 games of a season. They're positioning themselves for a long playoff run and, as any Sabres fan learned in 2006, can use as much depth on defense as they can find.
"I'm excited to get to Washington and maybe have a chance myself to do something that's maybe only once in a lifetime," Weber said. "I'm real excited to get in there. When you're a blue-collar kind of guy, you want to get in there, get into the mix and just start working again. That's my mindset."