Eric Staal brings veteran leadership to Sabres roster

Buffalo Sabres

GLENDALE, ARIZONA – DECEMBER 19: Eric Staal #12 of the Minnesota Wild celebrates after scoring against the Arizona Coyotes during the second period of the NHL game at Gila River Arena on December 19, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Former Minnesota Wild center Eric Staal was sitting at home alone when he received a phone call that he was going to be traded to the Buffalo Sabres.

“I know it’s a passionate hockey fanbase,” said Staal. “I’m looking forward to seeing the arena and getting comfortable.”

Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams traded forward Marcus Johansson for the 35-year-old center on Wednesday. Staal will be reunited on the ice with former teammate Jeff Skinner, and Adams, a veteran while he was starting off in Carolina.

“He was very good to me as a young player in Carolina,” said Staal. “I was at his house numerous times as a young guy so when he became GM in Buffalo, I shot him a text to send him a note wishing him the best, knowing he’d succeed and do well. Little did I know he’d be trading for me in two months.”

Playing in the West, Staal did not know much about the Sabres roster, but knew he was entering a team with plenty of potential.

“I know they’ve got a lot of talent, obviously Jack [Eichel] is elite,” said Staal. “There are guys there that are competitive and great players.”

As a young player, Staal looked up to the guys who were 15-20 years deep into their hockey careers. He wants to be the same role model for the Sabres, especially Eichel.

“For me, I think I’m just going to be myself coming in and just develop that team atmosphere, that desire to win and compete every night,” said Staal. “The center ice position is very important. Most teams that are successful have that, but to me the biggest reason for success is a team playing like a team. You need commitment from your whole lineup.”

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