The Buffalo Sabres loosened some of their logjam on defense just as the NHL trade deadline hit Monday afternoon, sending Nathan Beaulieu to the Winnipeg Jets for a sixth-round pick. The deal was announced about 3:40 p.m. on TSN, and the Sabres confirmed it 90 minutes later.
Beaulieu, 26, was scheduled to be in the Sabres' lineup for Monday's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Scotiabank Arena. He has played the last three games after being a healthy scratch for 22 of the previous 26 games.
The Sabres had nine defensemen with the acquisition of Brandon Montour from Anaheim and defense is a strength in both the AHL and their prospect pool, so Beaulieu was expendable.
"We wanted to just cut down on the numbers there," said General Manager Jason Botterill. "The addition of Montour added the right-shot help to our NHL depth but we've been very happy with the development of Lawrence Pilut and our strength on the left side. If we could find a better spot to to give Nate more of an opportunity, we were looking for it. Internally he handled himself very well. He did a very good job when he went back in the lineup."
Beaulieu, who reportedly requested a trade last month, has three goals and four assists with a plus-1 rating in 30 games. He is making $2.4 million in the final season of his contract and will be a restricted free agent.
"We had dialogue with his agent and I didn't think it was earth-shattering news when parts of those discussions become public knowledge," Botterill said. "It was never a hard demand to get out because I don't like the situation. He's a competitive player who's an NHL veteran who wanted to continue to be in the lineup every day. It was just a tough dynamic with Rasmus Dahlin coming in this year and Lawrence Pilut's development."
Beaulieu will be heading to a Winnipeg team that has a one-point lead over Nashville in the Central Division. The Jets made a big move earlier in the day by acquiring center Kevin Hayes from the New York Rangers.
With Beaulieu gone and Marco Scandella remaining on injured reserve, Casey Nelson will step in on defense tonight and play his first game since Dec. 4. Nelson, who has been out for more than two months with an upper-body injury, did a conditioning assignment in Rochester before rejoining the Sabres last week.