The Sabres have made it clear they don’t want a roster built exclusively with rookies and prospects. Buffalo wants veterans around to lead and, yes, win on occasion.

Drew Stafford figures to be one of those established players next season, at least at the start. It’s not clear if Christian Ehrhoff will be.

Stafford put himself into the good graces of the new hockey department with a solid second half. He had 12 goals and 21 points in the final 32 games and regained the alternate captaincy that had been stripped at the beginning of the season.

He’s also entering a year that is historically productive, both around the league and on a personal level – a contract year. Stafford has one season remaining on his four-year, $16 million contract. That means the 28-year-old will be playing for a new deal, and the last time he did that he put up 31 goals and 52 points in 62 games.

“It changes things, absolutely, but it’s not going to be in my mind unless I get asked about it,” Stafford said. “I’m focused on being the best player I can be, trying to help this team turn the ship around. When I’m contributing and playing the way I need to play, I want to be part of the solution.”

While the Sabres certainly can entertain trade offers during the summer for their much-discussed right winger, it’s probable Buffalo will keep Stafford around as a mentor before dealing him for assets at the trade deadline.