Former Sabres winger Justin Bailey hasn’t felt the comfort of playing under a general manager who acquired him in more than five years.
Sure, ex-Sabres GM Tim Murray promoted Bailey to the NHL after signing him to an entry-level contract. Murray’s replacement, Jason Botterill, who traded Bailey to the Philadelphia Flyers on Jan. 17, recalled him a year ago.
But Darcy Regier drafted Bailey months before getting fired late in 2013. Bailey was never truly Murray's or Botterill’s guy. They inherited the prospect.
Now, Bailey, 23, is playing for Chuck Fletcher, who has started overhauling the Flyers since replacing Ron Hextall as Philadelphia’s GM on Dec. 3, 2018.
“I felt like every time I was kind of making a good impression or what have you that things were changing,” Bailey told The News on Tuesday. “That’s how it is in sports. I think it is good I’m a Chuck Fletcher guy. Having a GM that wants you … is definitely a confidence boost for me.”
The Flyers sent Bailey, who was dished for winger Taylor Leier, to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, their American Hockey League affiliate. So far, Bailey has two assists in four games, including a pointless outing against the Rochester Americans.
Having already waived Bailey in September, it felt like the Sabres might eventually deal him. After they assigned him to the AHL, he was a healthy scratch for the Amerks’ second game.
“It’s tough to ever say, ‘Hey, they’ve given up on me’ or, ‘Hey, they’re moving on in a different direction,’ which I don’t think I ever thought that,” Bailey said. “I think I tried to work, I tried to do the best with what I could. …
“I don’t think they were trying to (mess with) me by any means.”
While Bailey said he knew he could be traded, the timing surprised him. Still, he said he was “definitely ecstatic” when he heard he was joining the Flyers' organization.
“It’s really exciting that I have a new coaching staff, new GM that wants me here,” Bailey said. “Hopefully they’ll give me a look. Obviously, I have to earn that. But it’s good to be somewhere where I feel like there’s a better chance to be able to achieve what I want to achieve.”
He added: “They want to add size, they want to add speed.”
Those assets helped the 6-foot-4, 214-pound Bailey score 20 goals in each of his first two pro seasons, become an AHL All-Star and earn 52 NHL appearances.
But after enduring an injury-plagued 2017-18 campaign, Bailey’s role diminished this season.
As the Amerks roared out of the gate, he struggled, going goalless in his first 11 outings before finding a groove.
Bailey, of course, is the local kid born in Buffalo and raised in Williamsville who fulfilled his dream of playing for the Sabres.
“I’ll never forget the five, six years I was in the organization,” said Bailey, who has scored nine goals and 22 points in 41 games this season. “For me, it was a blessing and a dream come true. But for me, now it’s time for me to really dial it in. I want to make sure I do everything I can to get to the next level, and if that’s in a different location, then it’s a different location.”
Following the trade, Bailey tweeted a three part thank-you message to the Sabres organization, the team’s fans and the community.
“I was that kid who grew up watching the Sabres,” Bailey said. “My dream was to play in the NHL, but that dream stemmed from watching the Sabres religiously, so I know how all those kids are, the kids that shot me messages or even the people in the community, from Williamsville, from Amherst, from all over that shot me messages.
“I think that’s one thing I’ll miss, for sure, is having that hometown tie-in. But I know I’m bringing a lot of supporters with me where I go.”
Redmond, Wedgewood injured
Amerks coach Chris Taylor said defenseman Zach Redmond, who has a team-best 19 goals and 39 points, and starting goalie Scott Wedgewood are week-to-week with lower-body injuries.
Taylor said both will be out at least until after next week’s AHL All-Star break. Redmond was supposed to participate in Monday’s all-star game in Springfield, Mass.
Redmond hobbled off in the waning seconds of Wednesday’s 7-5 win over the Binghamton Devils in Blue Cross Arena after falling awkwardly. Earlier in the game, he set the Amerks’ single-season record for most goals by a defenseman.
Halfway through the season, Redmond, 30, might be the AHL MVP.
“You’re not going to replace a Zach Redmond, but it’s other chances for guys to step up and make an impact on the team,” Taylor said. “That’s what you’re always curious about, how your depth is and what the opportunity brings to another player.”
Meanwhile, Taylor said Wedgewood was dealing with a nagging problem before Wednesday’s game. The Amerks want to give Wedgewood time to heal.
To replace Wedgewood, the Sabres recalled goalie prospect Jonas Johansson, 23, from the Cincinnati Cyclones on Thursday.
Johansson is 13-5-1-2 with a 2.79 goals-against average, a .900 save percentage and two shutouts in 22 games for the ECHL club this season. The Swede played three games with the Amerks earlier in the year.
In other injury news, Taylor said Amerks center Sean Malone is still day-to-day with a lower-body injury. The West Seneca native has missed four games.
Amerks winger C.J. Smith has compiled five goals and six assists during a career-long seven-game point streak. … Leier and winger Scott Wilson scored their first goals for the Amerks on Wednesday. … Binghamton goalie Cory Schneider, 32, made his second AHL conditioning start Wednesday. An abdominal strain had sidelined the NHL veteran since mid-December.