Another Sabres practice went by Tuesday morning. Another game Tuesday night. No sign of Patrik Berglund at either.
The case of the Suddenly Skipping Work Swede is the first real off-ice saga of the season, but you get the sense it's not going to send this team off the rails.
First, Berglund was making only cursory contributions to the club's success. Second, it's not as if he's heavily invested here and looking to turn around years of losing, like several players in this locker room who must be having the time of their NHL lives.
The Sabres suddenly announced Saturday morning that Berglund had been suspended indefinitely for "failure to report." He had been out of practice for a couple days — with coach Phil Housley left to stand in front of the media and say Berglund was "sick" — but it's obvious now that something more ominous was going on.
When Berglund disappeared from practice, right after being a healthy scratch in the Sabres' wins against Los Angeles and Arizona, Housley was clearly told to cover for him. It bought time for both Berglund and the team. Players have the flu all the time. Nobody thought twice about it.
But when the team departed Friday for Washington, Berglund wasn't on the plane when he was expected to be there. That left the Sabres with no choice but to act.
There's an easy bottom line here: Housley was healthy-scratching him at times for poor play and it would appear that Berglund decided he was above that treatment.
He opted to pack up his sticks and pucks and go home in a snit. If he doesn't want to be here, he's not needed.
Berglund has put nothing into this rebuild. Forget about the fact he was acquired for Ryan O'Reilly. He was largely a money balancer on the salary cap. That trade was all about getting Tage Thompson and a first-round draft pick, not a 30-year-old who proved inside of a month that he was no longer capable of being a reliable center in the speedier NHL.
If I'm General Manager Jason Botterill, I'm furious right now and I'm looking to get Berglund out of here for anything I can get. (Memo to the GM: Still time to do it by Wednesday's holiday roster freeze).
Now, you have to tread lightly on this kind of thing when the full story is not yet known. These guys are human too and can be dealing with the same kinds of issues as everybody else.
Kyle Okposo's 2017 summer of mental hell in the wake of his concussion was well-known in some minor depth even to people outside the organization, But Robin Lehner's acute substance abuse issues last season that became public in September were not.
To this point, there is no indication Berglund falls under any of these areas. "Failure to report" says he didn't show up. The Sabres have the lid on this one. There's no "we're concerned about him" talk. Housley and the players say that it's a management issue and they're worried only about the players in the room. That speaks volumes.
Approached on the subject Tuesday morning in KeyBank Center, Botterill couldn't shed much more light.
"There's communication going on there, but I don't have an update for you on it," Botterill told The Buffalo News. "When the time is right, we'll certainly try to elaborate on the situation. Right now, I can't discuss anything else."
The News has reached out to agent Peter Wallen multiple times since Saturday with no response. Wallen, it seems, has a hand in this as well.
Berglund carried a no-trade clause in St. Louis that turned into a modified no-trade clause July 1. According to a report by Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman late Saturday night, Berglund and his agent missed a deadline to file the list of teams they would not accept a trade to, and that allowed Blues GM Doug Armstrong to include Berglund in the deal with Buffalo.
The idea that Berglund is unhappy in Buffalo should be silly. Does he really want to be in St. Louis, with the trainwreck of a season the Blues are having? He seemed more than happy during training camp here. It all changed when Housley sat him down in October for a game in San Jose after a terrible defensive sequence while killing a penalty two nights earlier in Vegas.
Initially on the ice, Berglund responded well by playing wing on the fourth line. Apparently, however, he felt he was above that treatment.
Berglund signed a five-year, $19.25 million contract extension with the Blues on Feb. 24, 2017. It runs through the 2021-22 season — three more after this one — at a cap hit of $3.85 million. That wouldn't be bad money for a productive player, especially when you consider Berglund has three 20-goal seasons on his resume and scored 168 goals for the Blues.
But Berglund has only two goals and two assists in 23 games with a minus-5 rating. He has no points in the last 10 games, with just one goal and one assist in the last 15 — and both came in the 9-2 romp past Ottawa on Nov. 3.
Going rogue and turning up AWOL for a team flight is not the way a professional acts. And it puts the Sabres in a bind.
Berglund's contract and his poor play already have his trade value close to nil. Skipping out on a winning team might force the Sabres to keep some of his money to get rid of him.
The Sabres could try to get the contract voided under breach terms, but that would not be an easy road. It's known that the NHLPA is watching this case closely and ready to act on Berglund's behalf if needed. Still, you would think Botterill & Co. would love to get out from under Berglund's deal, especially with the sudden, unexpected need to Pay Jeff $$$kinner after this season (capital P intentional).
It's a messy situation. The Sabres would be wise to quickly clean it up.