ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - With one difficult decision, Robyn Regehr made two teams and one important All-Star player happy.
The Calgary Flames dealt the veteran defenseman Saturday to the Buffalo Sabres after he waived his no-trade clause, clearing space under the salary cap for the Flames to re-sign left wing Alex Tanguay to a five-year, $17.5 million contract.
Regehr has spent his entire 12-year NHL career with the Flames, serving as an alternate captain who doesn't do much offensively but brings plenty of grit to the blue line. Calgary general manager Jay Feaster said Regehr expressed a willingness to waive his no-trade clause during his exit interview after the season.
"He said, 'If you feel that I'm part of your solution here, that moving me out helps the organization, then I'm willing to work with you,"' Feaster said at the NHL draft in Minnesota. "Again, that just speaks to his character and his professionalism."
Feaster experienced the same situation with Brad Richards in Tampa Bay.
"When you have a warrior like Robyn is, a guy who has been there as long as he has been there, who has done as much for the franchise as he has, that's a very difficult phone call to make," Feaster said.
The Flames sent Regehr, right wing Ales Kotalik and their second-round draft pick in 2012 to the Sabres for defenseman Chris Butler and center Paul Byron. Perhaps the most excited person by the day's events was Flames captain Jarome Iginla, who lobbied his team hard to re-sign Tanguay.
"The chemistry between the two of them is pretty impressive," Feaster said.
The front office decided that the 32-year-old Tanguay - who has 686 points over 818 career NHL games - was a better option at his position than any of the available unrestricted free agents who will hit the market next week.
"We didn't see a player who was going to be as productive as he can and will be," Feaster said. "So it's good to have him back."
The Flames, now, can continue to be aggressive in free agency to fill Regehr's spot on the blue line.
"We've been in salary-cap jail for some time," Feaster said, "and this gives us an opportunity to have some breathing room."
On the other side, Sabres general manager Darcy Regier was equally pleased by Regehr's flexibility.
"My conversations with him were terrific. It was never about, 'I don't want to come to Buffalo,"' Regier said. "He said, 'Buffalo is an option.' He talked to a number of players: Jordan Leopold, who is in Buffalo, played in Calgary with him; Rhett Warrener, others. This is maybe the secret in Buffalo. From the outside, you may have one image. When players come there and play there, they love playing there. It's to get them there."
Regier has been given freedom to aggressively upgrade the roster, as much as he can under the cap, by new owner Terry Pegula. The Pennsylvania billionaire, Regier said, was flying Saturday to meet with Regehr.
"He didn't hedge his bet at all when he bought the team. He said his goal is to win multiple Stanley Cups. He didn't say, 'We're going to try our hardest.' He said, 'We're going to win multiple Stanley Cups,"' Regier said. "He has a philosophy on how that's done based on what he did with his oil company, and this is just an indication. He spoke with Robyn and said, 'I'm going to come up and see you.' I have not been a part of an ownership that takes that type of genuine interest in the players and the relationships with them."
Regier said Regehr would be a big help on the blue line for 21-year-old Tyler Myers.
"The youth and the experience, I think that blend will do well for us," Regier said.
Kotalik, who three times reached the 20-goal mark over five full seasons with the Sabres, returns to his original team. The 32-year-old forward was sent to the American Hockey League down the stretch last season before returning to the Flames, but Regier said he believes Kotalik can still play in the NHL. Kotalik had only six points in 26 games for the Flames last season.