Sep 21, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres right wing Patrick Kaleta (36) against the Toronto Maple Leafs at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

The Case Of Patrick Kaleta

Patrick Kaleta faces a new Buffalo that is making moves, but where does that leave Buffalo’s pride and joy?

Not much needs to be said about Buffalo’s-own Patrick Kaleta, his name is stuck in fan’s minds after hearing Rick Jeanneret bellow his name after a hard hit deep into the opponent’s zone.

But, that was one name that wasn’t heard enough this past season, seeing that the previous management decided that Kaleta’s hard work had not been as valuable as other players. The same management who believed that Ville Leino was the go-to guy for scoring or who believed that Mikhail Grigorenko was our next great center. The same management that found itself out the door only days later.

Kaleta received multiple-game suspensions to start the year, making former GM Darcy Regier force him to waivers and ultimately ending up in Rochester with the Americans. Regier would later state that Kaleta would remain there until he made “significant changes with his game.” Unfortunately, neither Regier, Ron Rolston, the Americans or the Sabres would see anything change due to an injury to his ACL, setting him further back from returning.

It’s evident that Ted Nolan wants him back. Right after Kaleta began to skate and rehab his ACL in March, he was the proud owner of his own locker in the Sabres dressing, despite not being able to use it for the season.

And of course, why wouldn’t he be wanted, he has been the back bone of his team, never afraid of taking a hit and certainly never afraid to dish one or two out. He’s Buffalo-born, Buffalo-bred and Buffalo-bound.

Buffalo faces a small predicament, however. In the gaining of Brian Gionta and return of Cody McCormick, Buffalo now sits with five right wingers, the likely candidate to move positions would in fact be McCormick moving under center as a gritty fourth line center, even though he has the potential to take the third and maybe even second spot.

The 28-year old Kaleta is entering his last season on his current contract, set to make $1.25 million this year, a cap hit that Buffalo would like to benefit from instead of placing down in the AHL to “change his game.” His game is one thing, gritty. He is the player who will dig deep in the zone and throw a body to loosen a puck up and hopefully turn it into an offensive chance. He is the model player for Nolan; hard working, playing with a chip on his shoulders and all around fearless.

If Nolan can somehow turn John Scott into a semi-hockey player, Kaleta will be scoring goals while throwing hits, creating a duel threat and further advancing Tim Murray’s rebuild plans.

Where would I see Kaleta? Placing him right beside Cody McCormick at center and Nick Deslauriers on the left, combining skill and strength enough to create a threat on our last line.

Will he work there? Of course he will, under Ruff, Kaleta was known to be a dangerous player anywhere on the ice. If you’re in Buffalo’s zone, Kaleta will get you; if you’re in the neutral zone, he will force the puck away from you and down the ice; or if you’re in your zone, prepare to become acquainted with the boards very soon.

He has one year. One year to either prove he can be a contributing member to the Buffalo Sabres, or prove enough that he deserves a spot on any other 29 teams where he can place them in a competitive area to win a cup. Of course, we won’t know the true ability he will bring to the table, but that is why we have one of the best coaches who will squeeze every ounce of potential and develop the right player.

What do you think?

Where Will Pat Kaleta End Up?

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