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Mike Harrington: Sabres stray from the norm as deadline day approaches

When it comes to the NHL trade deadline, it really doesn't matter who's running the Buffalo Sabres. You usually have to temper your expectations.

Here's a list of names for you: Dainius Zubrus, Steve Bernier, Dominic Moore, Raffi Torres, Brad Boyes, Cody Hodgson, Chris Stewart, Michal Neuvirth, Chad Johnson, Torrey Mitchell.

Their common thread? Those are the big names the Sabres have acquired at the deadline since 2007. Getting Anaheim defenseman Brandon Montour certainly outranks any of them.

So when the bell rings to close business around the NHL Monday afternoon at 3, the Sabres already have one new piece. Maybe there will be more.

Many of the recent years, of course, the Sabres have been sellers, dumping off bigger names like Ryan Miller, Steve Ott and Evander Kane. They haven't been in much of a position to be a buyer, and they don't figure to be one this year.

General Manager Jason Botterill's approach is patience and methodical analysis, and he seems far more comfortable formulating deals or making them at the draft and in the summer than on the fly at the deadline. This one is a little out of character for Botterrill, but it's a strong move.

It's how Botterill sent Ryan O'Reilly to St. Louis in a July trade that currently looks like an utter disaster, but also how he swindled Jeff Skinner from Carolina in August to rekindle memories of the 2003 Darcy Regier classic of Chris Gratton for Daniel Briere.

When he spoke to reporters Wednesday in Tampa, Botterill reinforced his philosophy. He said the Sabres haven't made any big moves, even though they're 12-18-6 since their winning streak, because he trusts his players and his development model.

Mike Harrington: Patience is no virtue for Jason Botterill as Sabres' collapse continues

It's why most observers expected the Sabres to be relatively quiet and there were zero rumors about the team through Saturday night. The relationship between the Sabres and defenseman Nathan Beaulieu, who has looked good since he returned the lineup three games ago after weeks in the press box, is soured after word leaked that Beaulieu wanted out if he didn't get more playing time.

You wonder if Botterill and mentor Jim Rutherford in Pittsburgh would be talking about Beaulieu for defense depth after the Penguins lost Brian Dumoulin and Kris Letang during their Stadium Series game Saturday night in Philadelphia.

Nathan Beaulieu keeps practicing, waiting for Sabres to make their move

The Sabres have two pending unrestricted free agents in Skinner and Jason Pominville. The team is negotiating a long-term extension with Skinner so he's not going anywhere, and Pominville has a modified no-trade clause and likely would not be that interested in leaving.

Pominville also carries a $5.6 million cap hit, so the Sabres likely would have to pick up a good chunk of salary in any deal.

The Sabres' restricted free agents are Beaulieu, Zemgus Girgensons, Johan Larsson, Evan Rodrigues, Jake McCabe and Linus Ullmark. They are almost certainly going to want to retain the latter three.

With Brendan Guhle off to Anaheim, it will be interesting to see if there's any deal involving struggling 2016 first-round Alexander Nylander. He's the last No. 1 pick of former general manager Tim Murray. Botterill, like many GMs, has seemed to move the organization away from many of Murray's key players (O'Reilly, Evander Kane, Robin Lehner) as well as other picks of Murray and Regier.

Inside the Sabres: Amerks bracing for unpredictable trade deadline

As for the rest of the league, there should be some interesting names afoot.

We wait and see what Ottawa does with Mark Stone now that Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel are gone to Columbus. It seems like the Blue Jackets have sent a message they're not inclined to move Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky, making a win-it-now statement and risking the free agent decimation no NHL team has endured since Briere and Chris Drury left the Sabres on July 1, 2007.

There are other big names to watch like Philadelphia's Wayne Simmonds, Kevin Hayes and Adam McQuaid of the New York Rangers (both of whom were held out of Saturday's game), Eric Staal of Minnesota, Marcus Johansson of New Jersey.

Most people thought Carolina would be selling forward Michael Ferland or defensemen Justin Faulk and Brett Pesce. Hard to see it now. The Canes got Nino Niederreiter from Minnesota and entered play Sunday holding the second East wild-card, even in points with Pittsburgh but ahead on tiebreakers.

San Jose, which needs help in goal, should be pondering a move for Detroit's Jimmy Howard. There's talk that Florida is telling people that Mike Hoffman or Jonathan Huberdeau could be available, with the Panthers clearing the way for a Panarin-Bobrovsky free agent splash come summer.

A lot has already happened the last couple of weeks aside from Columbus.

Toronto got a badly needed defenseman in Los Angeles' Jake Muzzin. Charlie Coyle, who would have fit in nicely with the Sabres, went from Minnesota to Boston. Dallas got Mats Zuccarello from the Rangers. Washington got Carl Hagelin, a former Stanley Cup champion in Pittsburgh who was likely on Botterill's radar, from Los Angeles. Nashville got Brian Boyle from New Jersey.

Lots of pieces moving about. Good to see the Sabres in the mix for once.

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