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Free Agent Friday: Jochen Hecht

Think back to Sabres’ rosters of past years. Three seasons ago, six seasons ago, ten seasons ago – all the way back to 2002. While plenty of players have come and gone, Jochen Hecht remains. But will that change come July 1st as Hecht becomes a UFA?

Jochen Hecht | Center | 34 years old | 2011-12 Salary: $3,525,000

He’s one of the longest-tenured players on the Sabres roster. Although Ryan Miller also began his professional career with the Sabres in the 1999 draft, his first season wasn’t until 2002-03, which is also when Hecht joined the squad.

The German centerman has been a good fit for the Buffalo team, but looking solely at this past season would not properly reflect that.

Hecht suffered a concussion before the regular season began and was thus forced to miss playing in the team’s game overseas in his native country. He proceeded to miss the first 20 games of the season before suiting up on November 23 for his first of the season.

Shortly after returning, he suffered a lower body injury and missed six games in the month of December. After making his comeback, he began to deal with concussion symptoms again and missed the final 33 games of the season.

In the 22 games he did play, Hecht tallied four goals and four assists – but it was certainly a struggle, and now it’s unknown how those concussion issues may factor into his future. Particularly with the league’s focus turning evermore to physical play, hits and concussions, it will be interesting to see how he fares.

Going back in time for a minute – Hecht was acquired via trade in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft for two picks. (Those draft picks ended up being current Ducks goaltender Jeff Deslauriers and Kings forward Jarret Stoll.) Before becoming a part of the Sabres organization, Hecht played for the St. Louis Blues and Edmonton Oilers.

In his first season with an Eastern Conference team (Buffalo), he had 26 points in 49 games. The next season, his point totals doubled: 52 points (15-37) in 64 games. When October 2007 rolled around, he was named captain of the Sabres for the month, becoming just the second German-born player in NHL history to captain a team.

Hecht played for Adler Mannheim during the year of the NHL lockout and put up pretty impressive numbers: 50 points in 48 games, and a somewhat shocking 151 penalty minutes. (Compare this to the 304 penalty minutes he’s accrued with the Sabres over parts of nine seasons.)

Over the course of his career, he’s played 566 regular-season games with Buffalo – that’s an outstanding 72 percent of his NHL career. In that time, Hecht tallied 133 goals and 198 assists.

Buffalo is where he’s spent the largest portion of his North American career – but will this continue to be true? In a recent article that was published in The Buffalo News, Hecht spoke of his children and how they’ve grown to consider the Queen City their home.

When July 1 rolls around, will any other teams make him an offer? Hecht’s issues with concussions this past season may provide a challenge to the free agent market. Is there room for him on the Sabres lineup, with promising prospects such as Marcus Foligno, Travis Turnbull and Luke Adam heading in?

Maybe the Sabres can sign him – but rather than as a player, as a member of the coaching or adminstrative staff.

Only time can tell, so Sabres fans: hang tight. July 1 is approaching quicker than you think!

This weekly series will feature (one or more) players eligible to become free agents from the Buffalo Sabres organization as of July 1, 2012. The eighteen players in the organization may become an unrestricted (eleven) or a restricted free agent (seven) depending on age and years of NHL experience. 

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