One member of the Buffalo Sabres organization that will hit free agency on July 1 is center Zenon Konopka. Should the Sabres try to sign Konopka and bring him back to Buffalo for next season?
Konopka, a native of Niagara-on-the-lake, Ontario, came to the Sabres when the team claimed him off waivers in January. He had previously been with the Minnesota Wild.
Konopka has always been a bit of a tough guy, and that attitude came to Buffalo with him. In 23 games with the Sabres, he registered 33 penalty minutes in just 23 games between January and April. He was a minus-4 and had one assist and six shots on goal.
Overall, his NHL career has seen Konopka notch 30 points and 1,082 penalty minutes in 346 regular season games.
To date, the 33-year-old has spent time with six NHL clubs: Anaheim, Columbus, Tampa Bay, Ottawa, Minnesota and Buffalo.
He earned $1 million last year in the second-half of a two-year contract and had a cap hit of $925,000 — the highest of his career to date.
Zenon Konopka is now set to become an unrestricted free agent when the NHL market opens on July 1. The question now is — should the Buffalo Sabres try to sign him?
The biggest factor that many teams will surely be taking into account when considering Konopka as a free agent is the 20-game suspension he was handed earlier this month for violating the terms of the league’s substance abuse policy. While his infraction could have been something as minor as medicine for a cold, the 20-game penalty is a hefty one that will keep Konopka out for a good portion of the season.
Look at it this way. Last season, the Sabres played their 21st game of the season on November 15. Assuming that’s the average for most teams, that puts Konopka out roughly a month and a half to kick off the season with any team he signs with in the offseason. That’s a good chunk of time to miss – almost a quarter of the season! It’s certainly going to be a factor in the minds of general managers when he becomes a free agent, and it may prove detrimental to his chances of signing with a team before the season opens in October.
On top of that, looking at Konopka’s career numbers, he’s a tough guy but certainly never going to be a top producer on any NHL team. He’s bounced around from team to team, spent time in both conferences and can’t seem to find a solid spot in the lineup on any squad. If a team is looking for a tough-guy presence, sure, maybe you take that chance. It isn’t every day that a guy gets over 1,000 penalty minutes in 300-some odd NHL games.
As for the Sabres — my opinion is, let him walk. Twenty games is too steep a penalty to contend with just to hang on to a player like Konopka, and it isn’t like there aren’t other fighters on the team, like Nicolas Deslauriers, who was just signed by Buffalo yesterday.
So what do you think? Take the poll below and explain your thoughts in the comments. Should the Buffalo Sabres try to sign Zenon Konopka, or should they let him walk?