THE SABRES SOAP OPERA: It makes sense for the Sabres to retain coach Ted Nolan, even after Pat LaFontaine’s abrupt departure as the president of hockey operations Saturday. Nolan is the quintessential players’ coach – Latvia’s players will tell you all about that – and since Buffalo is in the early stages of a massive rebuild, someone with Nolan’s attitude and perspective could be the perfect fit in keeping morale up, as the losing continues. Bob Hartley has done an effective job, under similar trying circumstances, keeping life in Calgary from being too grim. The Flames figure to be active at the deadline, with Mike Cammalleri the primary target, although the asking price for rentals of all descriptions is stratospheric. Teams are insisting on getting first-rounders in return, partly because of the perception that the 2014 draft isn’t great, and most teams with a long-term plan, such as the Sabres, are tentatively asking for 2015 picks because there’ll be 14 lottery chances for Connor McDavid and so you may as well load up on as many tickets as you can. It was instructive probably that Florida dealt two picks – one in 2014 and one in 2016 – to land Brandon Pirri from the Chicago Blackhawks Sunday. Nobody wants to give up 2015 choices, which is why the package that new Sabres’ GM Tim Murray extracted from St. Louis is considered a quality haul. Not only did he get a 2015 first-rounder, he’ll reportedly get one in 2014 too if the Blues either re-sign Miller or get to the conference final. And he has the option of flipping Halak and Chris Stewart, two viable NHLers, for additional assets. Compared to what Calgary got for, say, Jarome Iginla and Jay Bouwmeester last year – first-rounders yes, but marginal prospects otherwise – it’s an impressive package ... Last year, Pittsburgh made all those moves (Iginla, Brendan Morrow, Jussi Jokinen) with a view to winning right away and it didn’t pay off. Jokinen was the least heralded addition, but the only one to survive with the Penguins into this year and he’s been an effective player for them. With Pascal Dupuis gone for the year, and uncertainty about Beau Bennett, soon-to-be-unrestricted free agent Ales Hemsky looks like a good fit there. With his skill level, Hemsky might be the best buy at the trading deadline, a player who could be rejuvenated by a move and who, for anyone will really long memories, was the key offensive component in that Edmonton-over-Detroit upset eight years ago. Wonder if anyone with the Red Wings remembers how that went? ... Martin Erat cost the Washington Capitals the rights to Filip Forsberg in the most unusual transaction at last year’s deadline. The return for Erat will be considerably less this year ... Moving David Legwand for Nashville isn’t quite the same as New Jersey moving Brodeur, but Legwand has played every one of his 15 NHL seasons with the Predators and is a pending unrestricted free agent.
AND FINALLY: One more nod to Jaromir Jagr who – if such a thing is possible – quietly scored his 700th career goal Saturday night in the New Jersey Devils win over the New York Islanders, becoming just the seventh player in history to reach that milestone. Jagr is currently eight goals behind No. 6 – Mike Gartner. His assist in the same game gave him 1,040 for his career, tied with Marcel Dionne for ninth on the all-time assists lead, with Gordie Howe (1049) in his sights. If Jagr plays beyond this year, which seems extremely likely given his wish to play in the Olympics four years from now, he could potentially reel in Phil Esposito (717) and Dionne (731) on the all-time goal-scoring list. Remarkable.