WASHINGTON — Patrik Berglund cleared unconditional waivers Thursday afternoon, meaning the Buffalo Sabres can proceed with the termination of the veteran forward's contract after he went AWOL on the team.
Berglund went on waivers Wednesday after the Sabres put him on indefinite suspension Saturday for "failure to report," because he reportedly skipped practices and did not show up for a team flight here for Saturday's game against the Washington Capitals. As expected, no other NHL team was interested in picking up his contract — or the baggage of a player who seemingly quit on his team in the middle of the season.
Berglund's cap hit of $2.235 million is now off the Sabres' books, as is his $3.85 million annual hit that was slated to run for the next three seasons. In the short term, the Sabres now have cap flexibility for this season as they have about $2.4 million of space. In the long term, it gives them extra money to use on an extension for winger Jeff Skinner.
"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 also played with Berglund in St. Louis. "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."
"That's not something we make decisions on," said captain Jack Eichel. "We're strictly focused on our product on the ice. That's the important part, and the guys in the room did a really good job not making it much of a distraction, not letting it creep into our room and just staying focused on what we needed to do."
Berglund, 30, is now an unrestricted free agent and could potentially return home to play in Sweden. He had two goals and two assists for Buffalo this season.
The Sabres had a lot of players on the ice Thursday, with defenseman Lawrence Pilut, Jake McCabe and Nathan Beaulieu all practicing and forward Scott Wilson skating with the team for the first time since breaking his ankle in training camp. They also had a group of the players' mothers watching from the stands, as they are on the trip and enjoying the sights of the nation's capital.
Winger Jason Pominville, who was accidentally bulldozed by teammate Rasmus Ristolainen during a line change Tuesday night against Florida, was not at practice. Housley would not say if the 36-year-old was in concussion protocol, saying only that he was day to day. Winger Conor Sheary left practice early after what Housley termed a "minor bang-up" in a 3-on-3 drill and should be fine for the game.
#Sabres in practice today:
Pilut-Ristolainen, Dahlin-Bogosian, Scandella-McCabe, Guhle-Hunwick, Beaulieu extra with Wilson
— Mike Harrington (@ByMHarrington) December 20, 2018