When he was asked by the Calgary Flames to waive his no-trade clause and accept a trade to the Buffalo Sabres in June, defenseman Robyn Regehr began his hockey reconnaissance.
As a Western Conference defenseman, the Sabres were foreign to him; and Buffalo was even more of an unknown as a lifelong Canadian resident. So he spoke with Rhett Warrener, Steve Montador and Jordan Leopold — all three having been Flames and Sabres during their careers — to get the lowdown on his potential new home.
Of course, bribery never hurts in the decision-making process, either.
"When we were trying to decide whether to come here or not, it took us three or four days to make the decision. So my wife was on the Internet and she found two offers from Buffalo: One was for free wings for life if we came, and the other one was a free gas range for a year," said Regehr, who accepted a trade to Buffalo on June 25.
"We gotta follow up on that."
We spoke with Regehr at Sabres training camp on Sunday about coming to Buffalo, leaving Calgary, Sabres owner Terry Pegula, defenseman Tyler Myers and the issue of long-term contracts in the next CBA negotiation.
Q. Was it tough leaving Calgary?
REGEHR: It was tough to leave the city of Calgary. Both my wife and I really enjoyed the city. We had a lot going on outside of hockey. We had a lot of friends there and still do — it's just tougher to go out and see them. That was really difficult.
As for the team … it's part of what we do.
Owner Terry Pegula went above and beyond the norm to get you to drop your no-trade clause and come here. Was there anything in particular he did that blew you away?
No, just talking to him. Getting a feel for what he was looking for with the team, and then talking with Lindy Ruff and Darcy Regier too. They were pretty adamant about coming up to the lake to visit with us when we were trying to decide. I told them that may not have been the best situation, because we were in the middle of trying to gather all of this information and make a real good decision. Them coming up at that time might have added a little more pressure to the situation.
When we phoned them and let them know what our decision was, they said we're coming. It didn't matter what we said — they were coming.
People don't realize what a difficult decision it is, do they? The level of stress and strain on a family?
It was a difficult decision, based on all the information we had to gather. There's the hockey side, which is probably the easiest decision to make — looking at where the team's going, the coaches and GM and the ownership side of it. The most difficult is the family situation. We didn't know anything about the city. I had never lived in the States before, I had never played in the East before.
But I also thought that I didn't want to go through my whole career not having looked at that opportunity. There was a lot of back and forth, a lot of talking between myself and my wife.
Before you came here, if somebody said "Buffalo Sabres" what was the first thing that came to mind?
I knew it was a good young team. Probably their most high-profile player was Ryan Miller. I was familiar with most of the players, not all the players, because sometimes you only face a team from the other conference one a year. There's not that familiarity.
It was a little bit of a … I wouldn't say I was scared or anything like that, but it's a little bit unfamiliar territory. I feel like I have to relearn a few things. Learn a little bit more about the teams out here, the players and their tendencies. I've got my hands full.
What do you see as your role on the Sabres?
I see myself as someone who's going to try and set an example. Play real good, hard, physical game and try into their style of their style of play, which is a little bit different than how I played in the last. So there's going to be a bit of a transition.
But I haven't told myself that I'm going to be the minutes leader or anything like that. There are a few things that I just want to focus on that I can bring to the team.
Tyler Myers will probably be the minutes leader. He said earlier today that he grew up watching you. You're 31; is it weird playing on teams where there are players who grew up watching you?
[Laughs] Yeah, it's a bit of a transition right now. Guys I played with are now coaching or things like that. I see Jay McKee on the ice [as a coach], and I played against him. [Sabres assistant] Teppo Numminen, played against him.
I heard [about Myers] from Terry and Lindy when they came up to the lake. That makes you feel a little bit old when you hear that, but I don't feel old. I'm sure he's going to go through the same situation 10 years down the road.
Talking about Myers reminds us of his contract: 7 years, with $12 million up front. Christian Ehrhoff signed a 10-year deal in the summer. What are your feelings on long-term contracts like those in the NHL?
Right now, you have the framework that was agreed upon by the NHL and the NHLPA. And it's up to the people involved — general managers, owners, agents, players — to work within those guidelines. And that's what they are: guidelines. There are certain rules that can't be broken, but other than that you can be a little bit creative.
It's like going out to play the game: If you see something out there that you can exploit, and it's within the rules, you do it. That's always going to be like that.
Usually, when you do something within reason, it's OK. It's those extremes that you go to, and then there are issues.
I'm sure the NHL isn't happy that there are things like that going on.
Are you worried about the fate of long-term contracts in the next CBA negotiation?
Yeah. That's one of the issues. We're not sure as players what they're going to try and come after — guaranteed contracts, the term of them. They always want more. They're getting their ducks in a row.
Alright, last question, and we're going to put you on the spot: Do you look at this Sabres roster and see a Stanley Cup champion?
I think we have lots of potential. I think we need to do certain things, and there's always some luck involved. The buy-in of everyone in the locker room, too.
But I see a lot of potential on this team, and … I don't want to give you any bulletin board material. I'll just leave it at that. [Smiles]