Patrick Kaleta has never wavered in his position. His primary desire is to play in the NHL for the Buffalo Sabres.
He’ll settle for playing in the Sabres’ organization.
Kaleta signed a one-year contract with the Rochester Americans on Saturday. Though he’ll attend Buffalo’s training camp next week on a professional tryout, he’ll likely start the season with the Sabres’ minor-league team.
The Angola native will have a chance to earn a spot with the big club, but he’ll have to really wow General Manager Tim Murray and coach Dan Bylsma. The Sabres have a crowded bottom six, with Brian Gionta, Nicolas Deslauriers, Marcus Foligno, Johan Larsson, Cody McCormick, David Legwand and Jamie McGinn among those competing for playing time. Barring trades or a stellar showing by Kaleta, there isn’t room for another NHL contract.
Kaleta, though, is eager to show what he can do when healthy. The 29-year-old played in just 39 of the 164 games during the last two seasons because of injuries and suspensions. He is finally free of all ailments.
Other teams had inquired about the unrestricted free agent, but the recently married Kaleta decided his best fit was near home. He has played 348 games in Buffalo during nine NHL seasons.
Like the other young players, Brendan Guhle’s goal is to show the Sabres he has the potential to play in the NHL. The second-round draft pick from June is already well on his way.
The Sabres were so impressed with Guhle during July’s development camp that they signed the defenseman to a three-year contract. It’s rare for 18-year-olds not named Eichel or Reinhart to get a deal so quickly, and the swiftness surprised even Guhle.
“I wasn’t really expecting that,” he said in First Niagara Center before a 6-2 victory over to New Jersey in the Sabres’ prospect challenge. “They sent an offer, and I was pleased with it. Obviously, they were pleased with it, so we decided to sign. I think it was a good decision.
“It was nice to get it done, but it’s not everything. I’m not in the NHL yet.”
Indeed, the deal merely secured Guhle’s rights. Buffalo can send the blue-liner back to Prince Albert of the Western Hockey League and slide the start of the contract to next season.
“They just basically said, ‘We’ll give you a chance this year. You’ve got a fair shot,’ ” said Guhle, who will attend Buffalo’s training camp. “I’ll just play my game, and we’ll see how far it takes me.”
Guhle’s game is about skating and puck movement while remembering defensive responsibilities. He played on the first pair Saturday night and also manned the point on the power play.
“The biggest strength he has is that mobility and ability to jump into the play and get up with the rush,” Amerks coach Randy Cunneyworth said. “It’s obviously an opportunity to set up some plays, get some pucks to the net, play with some pretty special players. Building up confidence is huge for these young guys to look at who they have the potential to be out there with.”
Even if Guhle heads back to juniors, he’ll return with knowledge of what the NHL is about.
“The biggest thing is how professional everyone is,” Guhle said. “It’s a lot different coming up here from juniors and seeing how everyone acts and handles each other. It’s good to see that, and I’m excited to be part of that.”
Dave and Adam’s Card World, based in Williamsville, is the latest company to bring aboard Jack Eichel. The memorabilia company has secured exclusive rights to Eichel’s autograph sessions (aside from those mandated by the Sabres).
Eichel’s first appearance for Dave and Adam’s will be at 6 p.m. Oct. 6 in the store at 8075 Sheridan Drive. Autographs will range from $34.95 to $59.95.
“We recognize that ticket prices are higher than what people have come to expect for our signings,” Dave and Adam’s wrote on its Web site, “but Jack Eichel is a generational talent with world-wide marketing demand.”