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Sabres acquire Habs defenseman Beaulieu for third-round pick

Jason Botterill's reconstruction of the Buffalo Sabres' defense perhaps took a first step Saturday afternoon as the team's new general manager acquired veteran blueliner Nathan Beaulieu from the Montreal Canadiens for a third-round pick in next week's NHL draft.

The Sabres, of course, could have made the deal to leave Beaulieu unprotected in this week's expansion draft and have Vegas take him off their hands instead one of their returning players they would like to keep.

Still, Beaulieu would be an interesting addition to Buffalo's left side on D, allowing the Sabres more flexibility and perhaps the ability to start Brendan Guhle in the minors next season. Beaulieu currently is a restricted free agent who made $1 million last year.

Beaulieu, 24, was the Habs' first-round pick in 2011. He has been a regular on the Montreal blueline the last three years, and set career highs last season in games (74), goals (4), assists (24) and points (28). He also had a career-high plus-8 rating.

The Habs wanted to avoid losing Beaulieu in the expansion draft but he had fallen out of favor with the organization and was a healthy scratch in the final game of their first-round elimination to the New York Rangers. Beaulieu had started the season in Montreal's top pair alongside Shea Weber.

The deal leaves the Sabres with seven picks in the draft, including two in the second round. One of those came from Minnesota in the 2015 trade for forward Chris Stewart. Buffalo traded its own third-rounder in this transaction, retaining the third-rounder it got last year from Washington for defenseman Mike Weber.

Barring further moves, the Sabres' picks in the draft next weekend in Chicago are Nos. 8, 37, 54, 89, 99, 161 and 192.

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