Zemgus Girgensons has played 11 seasons in Buffalo. ©2024, Micheline Veluvolu

Sabres’ Zemgus Girgensons sees future in Buffalo, glad trade deadline passed

BUFFALO – Prior to Friday’s trade deadline, Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams spoke to some teams interested in acquiring winger Zemgus Girgensons and likely could’ve received a late-round pick in exchange for the 11-year veteran.

But in Girgensons, Adams said he sees a player “so important within the fabric of this team.” After dealing captain Kyle Okposo and defenseman Erik Johnson, he couldn’t trade Girgensons simply because he has an expiring contract.

It sounds like the Latvian, the Sabres’ longest-tenured player and an alternate captain, has a future here following what he called “an emotional week.”

“Zemgus has plenty of years ahead of him and I’ve made it clear to him that that’s something that we’re going to talk about,” Adams said Friday in KeyBank Center. “We wanted to get through the trade deadline and our own situation. … Where we got to today was there wasn’t the right deal to make.

“And I’m really glad we’re keeping him because there’s something special about him. And I think it’s important here down the stretch, too, that he’s in that locker room.”

Girgensons said he spoke to Adams and he’s keeping his “doors open … and they’re doing the same.”

“That went into his decision,” Girgensons said prior to Tuesday’s 7-3 win over the Detroit Red Wings. “So I think both sides are happy with how everything went down.”

Losing Okposo and Girgensons could’ve been difficult for the NHL’s youngest team to handle.

While coach Don Granato lauded his players’ response following Okposo’s departure – “These guys are ready to jump and step up,” he said – the Sabres need Girgensons’ experience.

With Okposo and Johnson gone, Girgensons, 30, is the Sabres’ second-oldest player. Only winger Jeff Skinner, 31, is older.

Girgensons has established himself as the Sabres’ quiet leader, setting an example through his work ethic.

So, why does Girgensons, the 14th overall pick in 2012, keep re-signing with the Sabres? He has played 673 games, the 11th-highest total in franchise history, yet has never participated in a playoff contest.

As an unrestricted free agent last year, he had other options.

“This is my second home, pretty much half my life here,” said Girgensons, who has been skating at left wing on the top line alongside center Tage Thompson and Alex Tuch. “No, but, I mean, lately, it’s the direction the team’s been going. You see the talent and the future that is here. So that’s what brought me back this year.”

The Sabres will open the 2024-25 season in Europe as part of the NHL Global Series, the league announced Tuesday.

The team will play games against the New Jersey Devils on Oct. 4 and 5 at O2 Arena in Prague, Czechia.

Prior to beginning the regular season, the Sabres will finish their training camp in Munich, Germany, and play an exhibition game against Red Bull Munich, a team in Deutsche Eishockey Liga, on Sept. 27.

The contest will be the first event in Red Bull’s new arena, SAP Garden.

Sabres winger JJ Peterka, 22, grew up in Munich attending Red Bull games before playing parts of two seasons with the team.

He said he’s “super pumped” to play an NHL game against Red Bull.

“Me and my family, we were always in the crowd cheering for them,” Peterka said. “So it was pretty special when I turned pro playing there and being part of that. And then playing against them will be pretty cool.”

Peterka has emerged as one of the Sabres’ top offensive threats in his second NHL season. Right now, after scoring Tuesday, his 21 goals are tied for first on the team.

His presence in his hometown playing for an NHL team will be significant.

“The way they want to treat hockey there with the new rink and they want to have more kids try the sport, kind of like get into it, I think that’s a huge advantage now that we play there,” he said.

The Sabres last played overseas in November 2019, when they faced the Tampa Bay Lightning in Stockholm, Sweden. On Oct. 8, 2011, the Sabres played the first NHL game in Germany, beating the Los Angeles Kings 4-2.

Sabres forward prospect Anton Wahlberg, who has spent this season playing for Malmo in the Swedish Hockey League, told broadcaster TV4 Hockey he will join the Rochester Americans following Tuesday’s game.

The Sabres drafted Wahlberg 39th overall in 2023. He signed his entry-level NHL contract last year.

Wahlberg, 18, has compiled five goals and 10 points in 42 games this season.

Sabres winger Jordan Greenway, who missed Saturday afternoon’s game after teammate Rasmus Dahlin high-sticked him in the face Thursday, played against the Red Wings.

The Sabres scratched winger Lukas Rousek.

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