Drew Stafford hung around the Sabres' dressing room longer than most on locker cleanout day. He chatted about friends, weddings, careers and the long summer ahead. It was clear he wanted to prolong the day. He knew once the talks wrapped up it would be time for a disappointing exit.

One thing Stafford delayed more than his departure was his arrival.

The Buffalo right winger entered the season figuring he'd made it in the NHL. Coming off a 31-goal season and armed with a new contract paying $4 million per year, the alternate captain was ready to help the Sabres reclaim a spot among the elite.

It didn't work out. In late January, both he and the club were languishing near the bottom in points.

"I know I took a step back this year for production at times," Stafford said. "Obviously, that went hand in hand with how the team was doing. If I was producing like I was at certain points last year, we could've won a couple more games. You win a couple more games, you're in the playoffs.

"It's one thing I'm going to try and obviously do my best this summer to focus on getting back to where I need to be."