Patrick Kaleta, like other Sabres fans, is thrilled with the moves Buffalo has made. The recent additions have energized the organization and made the Sabres a team on the upswing.
They’ve also made Kaleta’s future uncertain.
Buffalo will enter the opening day of free agency Wednesday with 14 forwards. That’s two more than are needed for a game, so barring trades the roster is extremely full.
Kaleta, an unrestricted free agent who has been in the organization for 11 years and loved the Sabres since childhood, wants to return. The right winger knows he may not get the chance.
“My No. 1 goal and priority is to stay with the Sabres, especially after the moves we made,” Kaleta said by phone Tuesday. “It’d be amazing to continue my career here.”
The 29-year-old said his agent has talked with Sabres General Manager Tim Murray about a new deal. The agent has also chatted with other teams.
“I have never been an unrestricted free agent before, so I guess this is just part of the process,” Kaleta said. “It’s just basically waiting for July 1 to happen, see how everything rolls out and go from there.”
Kaleta has been a daily fixture in the First Niagara Center workout room this offseason. The Angola native is healthy for the first time in memory, which makes him eager to show he can still perform in the NHL.
“I know people take into account my last two years and they think I’m done and blah, blah, blah, but I’m far from done,” Kaleta said. “The way I’ve felt this summer so far has really given me a boost of energy. I’m pretty pumped up about going into next season and being able to play the way I know I can play.
“They say that injuries maybe have not benefitted me at all, but I look it at as it’s actually given me rest and prolonged my career.”
Kaleta has played just 88 games during the last three seasons because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament, broken facial bones and suspensions. He had three assists and 88 hits in 42 games this season while skating 8:52 per night. He’s shined as a penalty killer and was an alternate captain at the end of the year.
“Hopefully, the things I’ve done here and the things I’m capable of doing will be positive enough and be beneficial enough for them to want me back,” he said.
There’s just a lot more competition for the bottom-six role that Kaleta plays. The Sabres already have Marcus Foligno, Nicolas Deslauriers, Cody McCormick, David Legwand, Jamie McGinn and Johan Larsson. Tim Schaller would like to graduate from Rochester.
It could add up to a tough question: If another team guarantees Kaleta an NHL spot and the Sabres say he’ll have to compete and could end up in Rochester, what would he do?
“I would just have to describe what’s going on with my family and, obviously, my soon-to-be wife and see what’s best for everyone,” said Kaleta, who is getting married in late July. “Everyone knows around here my No. 1 priority is to be with the Sabres, but you have to look at what’s best for you and the family.
“I would love nothing more than to be back and put on the uniform and actually be able to play the way I’m capable of playing.”
Doug Rombough, a member of the Buffalo Sabres’ inaugural draft class, has died at age 64.
The Sabres selected Rombough with their eighth-round pick in the 1970 NHL Draft. He played in 51 games for Buffalo from 1972 to 1974, recording eight goals and nine assists. He also played for the New York Islanders and Minnesota North Stars during his 150-game career.
The Sabres traded him to the Islanders for Brian Spencer.
Rombough died in Florida on June 20, according to the St. Catharines Standard.