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Montreal Canadiens' Nathan Beaulieu during an NHL hockey game, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017 in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)

Tom Mihalek/Associated Press

The Montreal Canadiens announced Saturday that they traded defenseman Nathan Beaulieu to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Buffalo’s third-round pick (No. 68 overall) in the 2017 NHL draft, which begins Friday in Chicago.

Montreal made the move just before Saturday’s roster freeze at 3 p.m. ET. The expansion draft starts Sunday in Las Vegas, and the Canadiens would have risked losing Beaulieu to the Vegas Golden Knights without compensation.

The 24-year-old Beaulieu is coming off his best NHL season, as he set career highs with four goals and 24 assists for 28 points, along with a plus-eight rating, in 2016-17.

Beaulieu was the No. 17 overall pick in the 2011 draft, and he becomes the second promising, young blueliner to leave Montreal in three days, as the Habs dealt Mikhail Sergachev to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Jonathan Drouin on Thursday.

In Beaulieu, Buffalo landed a 6’2″, 205-pound rearguard with some offensive ability and plenty of room to grow.

TSN’s Pierre LeBrun believes he could be a great fit under new Sabres head coach Phil Housley:

Defense was Buffalo’s biggest area of need entering the offseason, and it has already taken steps toward improving it by trading for Beaulieu and signing Russian free agent Viktor Antipin.

Beaulieu is a restricted free agent, which means the Sabres will have to work out a contract with him prior to the 2017-18 season.

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