Brian Campbell's last message to Sabres fans was a simple one, and it came from the heart.
"Don't boo me when I come back," the defenseman said this afternoon shortly after being traded to the San Jose Sharks.
Campbell fought back tears but also chuckled with reporters as he discussed the trade. He was sent to San Jose along with a seventh-round draft pick in exchange for 22-year-old right wing Steve Bernier and a first-round pick.
"It's life changing," Campbell said in HSBC Arena.
Campbell spent eight seasons with the Sabres, and he was informed of the trade by General Manager Darcy Regier and coach Lindy Ruff.
"Lindy and I met with him and thanked him," Regier said. "There's a lot of respect and that will continue."
Bernier was a first-round pick by the Sharks in the 2003 draft, No. 16 overall. He has 13 goals and 10 assists in 59 games for the Sharks.
The 6-foot-2, 225-pounder had played on the second line with Sharks center Patrick Marleau. The winger had struggled of late. He hasn't scored in 12 games, part of a team-wide problem that forced the team to look for offense. Campbell is expected to provide that, especially as the point man on the power play.
"Steve Bernier addressed an immediate need and a future need," Regier said. "He's a young player who will be able to help us now and down the road."
Bernier, who turns 23 at the end of March, had an outstanding junior career. He scored at least 31 goals all four years, led by a career-high 49.
Regier said it became clear in the past few days a deal would not be reached with Campbell and a trade was the best option.
"We would all preferred to have him or keep him here," Regier said. "But this is part of the new CBA we have to deal with.
"It's unfortunate for the fans."
"We've been talking contract for a long time. It's the process that played out."
Campbell admitted he was frustrated with the negations with the Sabres. He desperately wanted a long-term deal with Buffalo, but the Sabres offered just a three-year deal.
"I can't sign a three-year deal like that," said Campbell, who pointed out that Florida's Richard Zednik could have died in the arena this month and it forced Campbell to think of how short a players' career could be. "You see what happens. You have to look out for No. 1."
Campbell joins a Sharks team that includes former Sabres Mike Grier and Curtis Brown. The defenseman also knows GM Doug Wilson from his junior days in Ottawa and grew up playing summer hockey with Joe Thornton.
"It is [sad]," Regier said. "I think it's a very sad day. These guys start as draft picks, and 10 years later you get to know them and they're part of the team."