NEWARK, N.J. – Justin Falk has played for six teams during the past three years. With that kind of nomadic lifestyle, it doesn’t make sense to put down roots during the season. Falk, his wife and their two children under age 3 have been living in an extended-stay hotel.
“Luckily, the pool’s heated so we’re able to get out of the room for a little bit and burn some energy with the kids in the water,” the Sabres defenseman said Monday. “It’s a fun time for us as a family, but it can get a little tight quarters in the little hotel room.”
With a new contract, the Falks can finally look for something roomier.
Buffalo has signed the defenseman to a one-year extension worth $650,000. It matches the one-year deal he signed prior to this season.
“The position I’ve been in the last few years of my career, nothing’s guaranteed,” Falk said before facing New Jersey in Prudential Center. “It’s pretty day-to-day, week-to-week with your time in the NHL, so you put your best foot forward. For them to appreciate what I bring to the table with my element and style and commit back to me was great.”
Buffalo signed the 28-year-old in July as a depth defenseman, and he’s turned into a regular on the injury-riddled blue line with 36 games played.
“It’s great for him, great for us,” coach Dan Bylsma said of the extension before praising the 6-foot-5, 222-pounder’s physical play. “That’s something that he’s done real well for us and something that he’s going to do going forward.”
Although Falk is nearing the threshold for expansion-draft exposure rules (40 games played), the signing wasn’t an expansion necessity. Buffalo already had Rasmus Ristolainen, Josh Gorges, Zach Bogosian and Jake McCabe under contract for next year. The Sabres can protect only three defensemen (unless they opt for the eight-skater route, which would force them to expose additional key forwards). Still, the signing gives them more options.
It also gives the Falks the option to settle into the area.
“I’ve enjoyed my time here and I’m thankful for the opportunity they’re giving me,” Falk said. “As much as this has been a great thing to happen to me, I can’t forget about my wife and everything that she’s done and stuck with me in the transition of five, six different teams in four or five years. You throw in two kids along the way, this is as much for her as it is for me.”
A month after losing Derek Grant to Nashville on waivers, the Sabres reclaimed the center Monday. He was promptly assigned to Rochester. Whether he stays there is another matter.
Bylsma declined to elaborate on the claim, demotion or whether Grant will be back in Buffalo.
“That would be information privy only to me at this point and not to you,” Bylsma said. “We got him today at noon. Being that only team that claimed him this time around, we could make that transaction that way.”
The Predators waived Grant on Sunday, and Buffalo had the first option at getting him. Grant has no goals and four assists in 41 NHL games this season, including three assists in 35 games with Buffalo. He played in six games for Nashville but had been a healthy scratch since Jan. 22.
The Sabres are still king of NHL television, although 5 percent fewer people are watching.
SportsBusiness Journal has released TV ratings for 21 U.S. teams, and Buffalo is the No. 1 market for the second straight year. The Sabres are getting an average rating of 6.43, according to the report. Pittsburgh is second at 5.56.
SportsBusiness Journal reported the Sabres’ ratings are down 5 percent from last season.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are the biggest risers, gaining 110 percent viewership to average a 1.97 rating. Anaheim is last with a 0.21 rating, though Carolina and Nashville did not supply numbers.