Rochester Democrat & Chronicle
Project Suffering Rebuild is underway in Buffalo with the Sabres. Project Career Revamp begins now for Patrick Kaleta with the Amerks.
The veteran right winger went unclaimed during his 24 hours on the NHL waiver wire and he will be joining the Rochester Americans.
Kaleta was placed on waivers on Saturday and cleared at noon Sunday. He is now clearly at a career crossroads.
The NHL has ramped up efforts to rid the ice of players who deliver hits to an opponent's head. It's not out of the realm of possibility that the league ________ (fill in the blank with any of the following words: suggested, hinted, mandated, ordered) the Sabres to lop Kaleta off their roster.
Yes, it's entirely possible the Sabres simply realize they can't afford to have Kaleta deliver another cheap shot, get suspended for 20 games and lose a roster spot for two months. He's making $1.25 million this season and they will be paying him that amount next season, too.
If he's ever going to help them again - and he can help - then he must find a way to turn his hard-charging, bull-like forechecking attack into a less-dangerous, fully legal barrage.
Body checking is still allowed, and encouraged. But Kaleta no longer can take a 30-foot run, shove a player from behind near the boards or allow his elbow or shoulder to blast into the head of an opponent.
He will apparently come to the Amerks to learn how to do that. The AHL is, after all, a place where players hone their skill sets. Kaleta's ability to throw a fierce check is a talent. But just like a 100 mph slap shot that is worthless if it's never on target, the same is true for a player whose illegal checks read like an RPD rap sheet.
Kaleta didn't have a point in the five games he played this season. He has scored just one goal in his past 65 games. He doesn't have the soft hands of a goal-scorer, but he also has the skating ability and fearless approach that enable him to play in the NHL.
He can terrorize on the forecheck, he's not afraid to block a shot, and over the years he has become a pretty decent penalty killer.
His arrival in Rochester will create a headache for the coaching staff, however. The Amerks will have seven players in the AHL's "veteran" category (Kevin Porter, Matt Ellis, Jamie Tardif, Mike Zigomanis, Drew Bagnall and Alex Sulzer). They're only allowed to play five veterans in any given game.
That means coach Chadd Cassidy will now be required to scratch two of them. When Porter cleared waivers last weekend, Cassidy said he would rotate five spots among the six veterans.
The Amerks play at home at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday against the Hamilton Bulldogs.