While the Buffalo Sabres were hard at work for the last week in HarborCenter, Sam Reinhart was in Vancouver skating with the University of British Columbia. He had come here to skate in September with many new teammates but returned home when there was no new contract with Buffalo.
Vancouver in September is lovely. It wasn't where Reinhart wanted to be at all.
"It was probably one of the most challenging weeks, week and a halves that I've been a part of," Reinhart said Thursday in KeyBank Center after returning to practice with the team thanks to a new two-year contract. "Looking back at it, the best thing I did was come in early and be around the guys because now it feels like I've just missed a few days and I'm right back with the team like you usually would be with an injury."
Reinhart was a full participant in practice Thursday, skating on a line with Patrik Berglund and Evan Rodrigues.
"I thought he looked great, right up to speed," said coach Phil Housley. "I understand coming off signing a new deal you're going to have that adrenaline. It's the second and third day that we're looking at for him to see where he is but I was really pleased with his pace and execution and we'll see where he carries on."
Reinhart, like many of the Sabres' prominent names, won't play Friday night when the Sabres travel to Toronto to meet the Maple Leafs in Scotiabank Arena. He could make his preseason debut when the Sabres host Toronto here Saturday, although Housley said it's possible the Sabres may hold off on Reinhart's exhibition debut until the three games next week.
Reinhart's two-year deal pays $7.3 million and has a $3.65 million cap hit.
"It was the first time I've really had to experience that business side of it," Reinhart said. "At the end of the day I'm a hockey player and this is where I want to be. It's not an easy situation but I accept it and know that's a part of it. I'm just thrilled to be back around the guys. Any time they're all here and you're not, it's not an easy situation mentally to be in."
As for being away from the club, Reinhart said, "At the time it seemed like probably two years. Now it seems like two days so I'm thrilled to be back."