As I tweeted a few weeks ago, Marco Scandella was always a class act to cover.
Case in point: My cell rings at 12:55 today and what do you know, it was the now former Wild defenseman calling to tell me how bad he felt that he hadn’t called back sooner after being traded to the Buffalo Sabres with Jason Pominville and a fourth-round pick for Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno and a third-round pick June 30.
Scandella was out of the country on vacation the day he was dealt and things have been understandably crazy since.
But Scandella wanted to thank the Wild and the team’s fans for his time here and talk about his excitement level about the new challenge ahead in Buffalo.
Interestingly, as tough as Scandella said it was to see and hear his name in trade rumors daily in the final weeks of June, he said it was helpful that GM Chuck Fletcher was in contact with his agent, Kent Hughes, the entire time.
So Scandella had a chance to mentally prepare in case something happened.
“Of course it’s not easy when you hear your name,” said Scandella, drafted in the second round in 2008 and the second-longest tenured Wild player (seven seasons) up until the trade. “It’s part of the business, but when the rumors are out there and you hear it on TV, too, it’s not easy. It was the first time in my career that I’ve gone through a trade, even since junior, so it was new to me and it’s a little bit stressful.
“I figured something was likely. Just looking at the situation with the team, with the cap issues, I knew it was very possible, especially when I realized my name was in the mix of things. It wasn’t easy. I got drafted by Minnesota, I love the guys, I love the city. I’ve always felt like it’s been a home for me. It doesn’t even feel like a second home. It always felt like home. It was tough at the beginning to get traded, but at the end of the day, it’s a new challenge and I’m super excited about the new challenge I have. But I’ll always cherish the years I had in Minnesota and all the great friends and all the people I’ve met over the years. It’s an incredible place to live and play hockey.”
Scandella is extremely excited to play for the Sabres and particularly first-year coach, Hall of Fame defenseman Phil Housley.
“Look at what he’s done with Nashville’s D corps,” Scandella said. “He was an All-Star defenseman, and that he believes in me gives me a lot of pride. I think we’re going to work really well together. I know I’m going to learn a lot off of him. I think he has a lot to teach. I’m all ears and I’m super excited about the new challenge.”
Coincidentally, Housley talked about Scandella for the first time to Buffalo reporters today. Courtesy of my pal Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News, Housley said, “Marco is a terrific player. I got to see Marco playing a lot being in that division with Minnesota. He was a key element to adding to our team. He's a fierce competitor. He was playing behind some guys, wanted more minutes, wanted an opportunity. Luckily for us, we got him. The way he can skate, is mobile ... A big part of our team is going to be mobility back there and he brings that.”
Scandella said he plans to visit Buffalo in about 10 days to find a place to live, tour the Sabres’ much-hyped facilities and see their doctors after having offseason hip surgery.
He also plans to have dinner in a couple days with Pominville, the former Sabres’ captain about to begin his second stint in Buffalo.
“I know Pommer’s always loved it there,” Scandella said. “Since I got traded, he’s been texting me and telling me, ‘You’re going to love it. Don’t worry. Everyone who goes there and plays there always loves it.’”
Scandella said he’s only looking at this experience as a positive. He doesn’t feel the Wild didn’t want him anymore, but he’s very proud Buffalo did.
“I understand why the trade happened,” Scandella, 27, said. “It’s not like Minnesota went, ‘We don’t want him anymore.’ Chuck’s done a great job of drafting, and once a team gets to that level and good players have to get re-signed [like Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter and next year Jason Zucker and Matt Dumba], no matter what, you’re going to lose guys. It’s a great problem to have. It just so happens that I was the one that was pushed out of Minnesota, but it’s all positive. There’s no animosity. I’ve always respected Chuck, Bruce [Boudreau], and I had a great time in Minnesota. I’m going to miss it. I really am.
“But you know what, it’s just a new chapter in my life. You can’t dwell on things. The challenge is really exciting. I’m at an age where I feel like I’m really ready for a new challenge like this.”
Scandella’s also excited to be in the east and so close to his home in Montreal. He has an uncle in his 90s that likes to watch every game and a grandmother “getting up there in age, so my games on TV in Montreal, they’ll be very happy I’m playing at an earlier time. And of course, it’ll be easy to fly my mom in.”
If you’re a Sabre fan and want to read more about Scandella, here’s a couple features I think you’ll find informative.