WASHINGTON — The Patrik Berglund contract termination, one of the more bizarre sagas in recent Buffalo Sabres history, reached a climax Thursday as the veteran center who went AWOL on his team cleared unconditional waivers and the club moved ahead with scrubbing his contract from its books.
Earlier in the day, Berglund's former club team in Sweden said it would be open to another reunion with the 30-year-old forward. For their part, the Sabres have quickly moved on and pushed their focus on to Friday's game against the Washington Capitals in Capital One Arena.
Berglund was removed from the Sabres' web site last Saturday, when he was put on indefinite suspension, and his 23-game Buffalo career officially ended when no one picked him up on waivers Wednesday.
There's no sense the issue has caused a major distraction in the locker room.
"I think that we've tried to limit our focus to playing, and the guys that are here," captain Jack Eichel said after the team practiced for about an hour in the arena. "You let the right people take care of that situation,. You kind of just focus on what you can control and the people that are here."
"He was an ultimate pro, does everything right, every day works hard so obviously it’s been a bit shocking," said goalie Carter Hutton, who played with Berglund in St. Louis the last two years. "There’s a lot of stuff where we don’t even know about I’m sure, so you hope for the best in all cases."
Hutton said the team's older players are used to off-the-ice issues sometimes creeping into the locker room and need to show the younger players how to stay on course.
"There's the business side of things we've dealt with a lot in our careers," he said. "You know you have to deal with it and sometimes you just have to separate yourself and make sure you're taking care of your own business so you don't get caught up in stuff. We've done a good job as a leadership group and with management staying focused on what we need to be."
The Sabres are no longer on the hook for Berglund's $3.85 million cap hit each of the next three years and get relief for this season to the tune of $2,235,484, according to CapFriendly.com. In total, Berglund is losing about $12.5 million over the next four years.
The Sabres had no comment about Berglund's termination on Thursday and have said virtually nothing about the situation since it cropped up. The prevailing theory is that Berglund never wanted to be traded to Buffalo in the first place but his representatives were late in turning in his team list for a modified trade clause that kicked in July 1, so the Blues were able to trade him to Buffalo.
Once here, Berglund never really meshed with his new teammates. He had two goals and two assists in 23 games and was rarely seen in the dressing room by reporters after practices or games. Coach Phil Housley wouldn't go down a certain road Thursday when asked if he was agitated that a player quit his team.
"I'm not going to comment on that," Housley said. [GM Jason Botterill] along with our management has done a really good job of handling it and that's all I'm going to comment on. Jason has done a terrific job. Obviously it's an unfortunate situation but we're focused on the guys that are in that room and getting prepared to play against Washington."
Berglund played three years for Västerås IK from 2005-08 and returned to the Swedish club in 2012 to play 30 games there during the NHL lockout. Officials there are apparently interested in another reunion.
"If he wants to come home and play, we will take him with open arms," Västerås sports director Patrik Zetterberg said in a translated article on Hockeysverige.se. "It is clear that you are wondering what is happening. It is clearly a difficult situation for all involved. I have not had any dialogue with Patrik about this. So I do not know what is behind [it]. The most important thing for me is he's OK. I think he has a lot to solve over there."