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Recently traded Golden Knights speak as Buffalo Sabres

Peyton Krebs went to bed early Wednesday night in Ottawa thinking he was preparing for his 14th NHL game.

A “weird dream” woke him up around 6 or 7 a.m. Then he saw the missed calls from Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon. And his heart started pounding.

Krebs, once the team’s top prospect, was traded Thursday morning to the Buffalo Sabres along with Alex Tuch and two conditional draft picks for center Jack Eichel and another conditional pick. The move gave the Knights a potential elite player up the middle — pending the results of a neck surgery — but sacrificed a key part of their past and a potential part of their future.

Despite being traded from a potential Stanley Cup contender, Krebs and Tuch expressed excitement and optimism in their first comments with the Sabres.

“I have a lot of lifetime friends (in Las Vegas) … so it was really tough to say goodbye to those guys,” Tuch said. “But I am very excited to come to Buffalo. I’m born and raised in Syracuse, New York, which is right down the road, right down Route 91 there. It’ll be a lot of fun to come and put on the Sabres jersey.”

Tuch is coming home after establishing himself as an offensive weapon in the NHL with the Knights. The 25-year-old, regarded as one of the team’s many expansion-draft steals, had 19 goals in 66 playoff games during his four seasons.

Left wing Max Pacioretty once called Tuch “the X-factor” because his size and speed on the third line often overwhelmed opponents. Tuch was also active in the community and was the Knights’ NHL players association representative.

His exit means there are only six players from the team’s inaugural season still on the roster. They are center William Karlsson, right wing Reilly Smith, left wings William Carrier and Jonathan Marchessault and defensemen Brayden McNabb and Shea Theodore.

Karlsson, Marchessault and Theodore posted goodbye messages to Tuch on Instagram after the trade.

Tuch has yet to appear in a game this season while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. He should have a lot of friends and family in the stands the next time he plays,.

The Sabres shared a photo of a young Tuch with his dad at one of their games on Twitter, and he spent part of his introductory press conference Saturday listing the Buffalo players he cheered for.

“I was a big Sabres fan growing up,” Tuch said. “I was very thankful to play in Vegas where they really embraced us. That entire city embraced us. But coming to Buffalo, it’s going to be like none other.”

Krebs doesn’t have the same ties to his new city as Tuch. But he’s excited to join a young core the Sabres hope will one day end their lengthy — 10 seasons and counting — playoff drought.

Krebs, the Knights’ first-round pick in 2019, was assigned to Buffalo’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Rochester Americans, to aid his development. There he’ll play with 2020 eighth overall pick Jack Quinn.

On the Sabres’ NHL roster is 2018 first overall pick Rasmus Dahlin, 2019 seventh overall pick Dylan Cozens and 2017 eighth overall pick Casey Mittelstadt. Buffalo also had the first overall pick in 2021, which they used on Michigan defenseman Owen Power.

To that group, general manager Kevyn Adams has now added Krebs, who said he was driven four hours from Ottawa to Rochester the day of the trade.

“(Adams’) message to me (was) we got a long ways to go and this trade isn’t gonna dictate our right now, but in the future, I think it’s gonna be really exciting,” said Krebs, who switched his number from 18 to 19.

The trade should set up Buffalo for years to come. Tuch’s contract has five years remaining with a reasonable $4.75 million cap hit. Krebs is still on the first year of his entry-level deal. They both have a lot of hockey left to play. They just won’t be doing it with the Knights.

“We’re thrilled about both of them,” Adams said. “It was really important for for us (to get) these two players in particular and these type of players that we can move forward with for many years.”

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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