Folks in Dallas love Steve Ott. The feeling is mutual now in Buffalo - Adios to Roy
The feisty forward grew as a hockey player and person while wearing a star on his chest.
“I’ve kind of turned into a man there in my time,” Ott said Monday night. “To say that it was a big part of my life would be an understatement.”
As much as Ott appreciates Dallas, the feeling is overshadowed by his excitement of coming to Buffalo.
The Sabres acquired Ott on Monday as part of an early summer blockbuster, picking up the 29-year-old spark plug plus defenseman Adam Pardy from Dallas. In exchange, the Sabres sent former perennial scoring leader Derek Roy to the Stars.
“I’m a guy that looks forward to an excellent opportunity and a new opportunity,” Ott said by phone from his summer home near Windsor, Ont. “I love challenges, and if this is going to be a new challenge or a new adventure in my life, I’m really looking forward to this adventure more than anything.
“I’m excited. Absolutely. It’s almost like draft day again. You get a new sense of energy. It’s something that I love to prove to people where I belong. Buffalo wanted me, and I don’t want to prove them wrong. Also at the same time, I want to prove to Dallas of what they missed out on. First most, I want to prove to Buffalo what type of player I am and what I can bring to that team.”
Ott instantly adds competitiveness to a lineup that needed it. The 6-foot, 190-pounder had 11 goals, 39 points and 156 penalty minutes last season while serving as alternate captain of the Stars. His drive to win and battle earned him legions of fans in Dallas — and enemies around the NHL.
“I hope I can bring that attitude,” said Ott, who has two years left on a contract that pays $2.95 million per season. “I want to bring my consistency of being hard to play against every single night. I feel I’ve done that since the start of my career, and I feel I have a ton of game left. I haven’t even reached part of my peak yet.”
Roy, meanwhile, was on a downward curve in Buffalo. He led the Sabres in points from 2007-08 to 2009-10 and was on his way to pacing the team a fourth straight time when a torn quad muscle ended his 2010-11 campaign after 35 games. The center struggled with injuries again last season and slumped to 17 goals and just 44 points in 80 games.
He also criticized the methods of coach Lindy Ruff following the season, moving the trade watch into full swing. Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier and Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk completed the deal Monday after months of negotiations.
“At first, it was a shocker,” Roy said on a conference call, “but Darcy called me and Lindy called me and they thanked me for my time in Buffalo and what I did for the organization. I thanked them back.
“It’s weird because I’ve never been traded before, so it was a weird situation. Very emotional. I’ve been playing here my whole career.”
Said Regier: “After the season I had a couple of meetings with him. I think he realized it could be a possibility.”
Roy, a second-round draft pick of the Sabres in 2001, had 161 goals and 427 points in 549 games with Buffalo. The team, however, hasn’t won a playoff series since 2007 and has moved out core players Roy, Tim Connolly and Paul Gaustad in the past year.
“More than anything else we needed to move the balance of skill versus the physical nature of our game, being a tougher team to play against,” Regier said in First Niagara Center. “Steve can play as a complement to our higher-skill guys and contribute in a lot of different ways. I think he’ll be very valuable for us.”
Ott and Pardy, a 6-4, 220-pound defenseman, join 6-8, 270-pound John Scott as the newest members of the organization. The Sabres signed Scott on Sunday night.
“They move the needle over to a grittier, more physical hockey club,” Regier said. “That’s something that we targeted, and it’s important.”
The next important step for the Sabres is finding a center. Ott can take faceoffs, but he said 90 percent of his career has been spent at left wing. The Sabres failed in their attempt to convert Ville Leino from wing to center last season, so finding a natural pivot is paramount. Tyler Ennis and Cody Hodgson head the Sabres’ depth chart in the middle, but they are both only 22 years old and have not faced the pressure of being a No. 1 center.
“We certainly weren’t looking and aren’t going to move Tyler or Cody,” Regier said, “and will have to address, see if we can get a little bigger in the middle to complement those guys. . . . It’s more likely a trade than it is anything else. There’s quite a holding pattern right now in the league. I think it will remain that way until some of the big guys declare where they’re going to go.”
Pardy, 28, joins a crowded blue line. He played 36 games for Dallas, recording no goals, three assists and a minus-5 rating. He spent the previous three seasons in Calgary.
The Sabres already had eight blue-liners under contract, though Regier said Monday that promising rookie Brayden McNabb will likely continue to hone his skills in the minor leagues.
Ott knows one Buffalo defenseman extremely well. Mike Weber lived with Ott’s family while playing junior hockey. Weber brought Ott’s mother on the Sabres’ parents trip last season. Weber has prepped Ott on what to expect when he pulls on Blue and Gold.