LOS ANGELES – A black Town Car pulled up to the top of the loading dock at the Staples Center late Thursday morning.
After a lengthy security check that included a look-see at the undercarriage with mirrors — hey, this is the famed Staples Center, where the Grammys are held, Michael Jackson’s memorial was conducted, where Kobe plays — Jason Pominville’s sedan was finally permitted entrance.
After a long cross-country trip that began in the wee hours of Thursday morning when buddy and former linemate Thomas Vanek dropped his former captain off at the Buffalo airport, Pominville got out of the car with a big smile on his face and an extended handshake.
“Jason Pominville,” he said with a smile and look of relief that he finally arrived.
It’s been a whirlwind few days for Pominville, who went from being an entrenched member of the Sabres’ core to the latest pawn in the franchise’s rebound. He was traded to the Wild on Wednesday for two prospects, a first-round pick and second-round pick. The Sabres are picking up part of his $5.5 million salary and $5.3 million cap hit this year and next, sources say.
Last week, Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier asked his captain for a list of eight teams he would not permit a trade to. So, obviously, Pominville knew there was a chance he would be traded.
Still, “it was a shock. It’s still a shock,” Pominville said hours before making his Wild debut against the Los Angeles Kings on the right side of a line with Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu.
Pominville hadn’t gotten a lot of sleep since finding out he would be moving to Minnesota. There were both nerves and excitement, which is why after the upheaval the trade has caused for his family — his wife and two children remain in Buffalo getting their life in order — he was ready to turn the page from Buffalo.
“Really excited to come to this team, this organization, this city, where they’re doing whatever it takes to win, and they’re heading in the right direction,” said Pominville, 30, who scored at least the 20 goals the past six seasons, twice hitting 30. “They’ve had a lot of success so far and hopefully I can just fit in and add to the puzzle.”
Years ago, there’s a chance that the Wild would be on a lot of players “do not trade” list.
But suddenly, because of a deep pool of prospects, the willingness to annually be a salary-cap ceiling team and last summer’s Parise/Ryan Suter splash, Minnesota is becoming a destination, Pominville said.
“They’re willing to do whatever it takes to win, and I think that excites you as a player,” Pominville said. “It’s a place you want to come to. Anytime you have a chance to win, those teams are going to be on top of most guys’ lists.”
Meantime, the loss of Buffalo’s captain has hit the Sabres’ hard.
“That’s what happens when you don’t perform in a season as a team,” goalie Ryan Miller told Buffalo reporters. “You get players that have value. Jason has a lot of value. Hopefully, he can do something special with his new team.
“I think the worst thing for me is watching Pommer get traded. It’s somebody that’s been right next to me for 11 years. That’s the tough part. But no one’s going to feel sorry for us.”
Vanek indicated recently he didn’t know if he wanted to be part of a rebuild, and the former Gopher and offseason Minnesota resident is one year from unrestricted free agency. He is somebody conceivably that the Wild might one day have interest in if the salary cap, which dips to $64.3 million next season, begins to rise again.