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Dominik Kahun surprised by trade from Penguins, happy to play for Sabres

Dominik Kahun said he was surprised to learn he was traded from the Penguins to the Sabres, his third NHL team in two seasons, at Monday’s trade deadline, and hopes he can remain with his new team longer than his stints with Pittsburgh and Chicago.

“Obviously, when I got traded (Monday), first of all I was a little shocked, that’s for sure,” Kahun said Tuesday during a conference call with Buffalo reporters. “I didn’t really see it coming. But I’m really, really happy to play for Buffalo now.”

The Sabres acquired Kahun, a 24-year-old forward and pending restricted free agent, for forwards Conor Sheary and Evan Rodrigues. Kahun, who has 10 goals and 17 assists in 50 games this season, is expected to join the team in Denver on Wednesday in time for the Sabres’ game against the Colorado Avalanche, but might not play.

Kahun injured a knee last Thursday and did not play in the Penguins' two games last weekend after participating in warmups. Kahun described the injury as minor and said if he did not play Wednesday, he expected to play Friday at Vegas.

“I don’t think it’s anything terrible and I will be playing soon again,” Kahun said.

Kahun, a native of Czech Republic who went undrafted, has 23 goals and 41 assists between Pittsburgh and Chicago over the past two years. He missed eight games earlier this season with a concussion but played in all 82 games with the Blackhawks in 2018-19.

5 things about new Sabres forward Dominik Kahun

Kahun played professionally in Germany before his rookie season with Chicago.

“Dominik Kahun I know well,” Sabres coach Ralph Krueger said after practice Tuesday. “He played multiple world championships with my son and I’ve seen each and every world championship – which I’d like to stop doing – over the last 20 years. So him winning the silver medal at the Olympic games and being an important part of multiple championships in Germany (with EHC Red Bull München), coached by Don Jackson, one of the best coaches in Europe, a great ex-NHLer who teaches the right way, who believes in the principles I’ve exchanged with Donnie over the years, so we know that Dominik has gone through a good school. … So we’re excited to have him join us.”

Krueger said his knowledge and familiarity with Kahun is a great benefit.

“It helps a lot that you completely understand where he’s coming from,” Krueger said. “I get his entire school of when he played in Mannheim as a kid to going to Munich, the most powerful franchise in German hockey, and then playing on the A national team as an 18-year-old, that’s really rare.

"In all my 13 years with Switzerland’s national team, I had one 18-year-old on that team. That was Roman Josi. So you don’t make national teams in Europe as an 18-year-old very often. And so just his track record and his ability to step up and play against bigger bodies really quickly was quite interesting. But it helps, for sure, to have some familiarity with the way he’s been bred.”

Kahun also has experience with Sabres assistant coach Donnie Granato – since both were with the Blackhawks last season – as well as Sabres defenseman Henri Jokiharju, a first-round draft pick by the Blackhawks in 2017. Kahun and Jokiharju used to room together on road trips.

“I think he’s a really honest and great guy, a great teammate, and of course, he’s a good player,” Jokiharju said. “He’s got some skills and some speed and he works hard, so I think he’s going to be a good addition for our team.”

Kahun, a left-handed shot, said he played center his entire life before arriving in the NHL but is willing and able to play any position. He played anywhere from the second to fourth line in Pittsburgh and shifted between the left and right wing.

“I can be anywhere, winger or center, but most of the time I’ve played center for sure in my life,” Kahun said.

Krueger said Kahun will begin on the wing with the Sabres, but values his versatility.

“For him, I think it’s easier on the wing initially, but he definitely gives you that option as a centerman, which I’m well aware of,” Krueger said.

The line he plays with hasn’t been determined.

“Dominik is definitely a skill player,” Krueger said. “He’s got good hands, good feet, good speed, and he can play up and down the lineup. We don’t have that classic ‘top six, bottom six’ kind of situation here. We really are doing this by committee right now and everybody knows that (Jack Eichel, Victor Olofsson and Sam Reinhart) are the driving force in our offense, but everybody’s involved in both directions.

“Where he’s going to play and how that’s going to settle in and whether he’s in, we’ll make those calls (Wednesday).”

Kahun said it hasn’t been easy being traded twice in three seasons.

The Blackhawks dealt him to Pittsburgh in June for defenseman Olli Maatta – a former first-round draft pick and two-time Stanley Cup champion – and a fifth-round pick.

“That’s how it is. It’s out of my control,” Kahun said. “I play hockey. That’s what I do best. And it doesn’t matter where I play, I always try to help and be the best. Like I said, I was a little surprised. But I’m very excited and I hope that I can stay longer in Buffalo now.”

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