Patrick Kaleta has played only 26 games with Rochester. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Patrick Kaleta frustrated by Amerks stint

ROCHESTER – Patrick Kaleta smirked before pausing 10 seconds. The popular former Buffalo Sabres winger kept searching for the right word to describe his first full AHL season since 2006-07, his rookie year.

The oft-injured agitator, a veteran of 348 NHL games, never found one.

“Kind of hard to put a word on it,” Kaleta said Friday inside the Blue Cross War Memorial. “But with what I can kind of control playing-wise, I did what I needed to do. I’ll just leave it at that for right now.”

For now, Kaleta, 29, is still a member of the Amerks, the Sabres’ AHL affiliate. One game is left this season, and the Angola native, sidelined since March 25 with an upper-body injury, won’t participate.

Kaleta’s return to the AHL, a league he wants no part of, has been a difficult experience. Injuries and league veteran rules limited him to only 26 games. He debuted Nov. 27 and never played more than four straight contests. He often skated short minutes as a fourth-liner.

“I never accepted being here one bit, not one time during the year,” Kaleta said. “But I embraced it, and I did everything I could to help people around me, younger guys, people in the community. But I don’t accept being here, if that makes sense.”

Despite a full year away, Kaleta believes he has a future with the Sabres, the team he grew up rooting for and took great pride in representing.

“I think I do,” he said. “I think I can help out that team. I think they can benefit from someone like me and what I bring and maybe create a little bit more space for those young guys to do what they do.

“There’s some special guys up there. I don’t need to talk about them, because everyone has seen what they can do. I think a player like me can complement that and just have their backs, do all the stuff I normally do.”

Kaleta, like he did in Buffalo, has become a visible member of the Rochester community. The Amerks honored him before Friday’s home finale, naming him their “Man of the Year” and awarding him the McCullough Trophy for his humanitarian service.

“You’re never going to take that out of me, regardless of the situation,” Kaleta said about his community service.

Still, Kaleta had little desire to revisit his Rochester roots.

“I want to play in the NHL, that’s your goal,” he said. “If I had to play in the AHL, then this would obviously be my No. 1 spot, especially because it’s where I started and it’s close to home. There’s a lot of great people I met in Rochester throughout the years. I love the city of Rochester, but ultimately, no, I want to be in the NHL.”

Kaleta has spent most of his career in the NHL, first receiving regular duty in 2007-08. During his run, he developed a reputation as one of the league’s foremost pests and most ferocious hitters.

His rugged style often proved costly. Thanks to injuries and suspensions, he never played more than 63 games in a NHL season. When Kaleta received a 10-game ban for a hit to the head in early 2013-14, the Sabres’ old regime demoted him to the Amerks, where he played briefly before tearing his ACL.

Kaleta made it back in 2014-15, playing 42 times while battling more injuries. But it was clear more than a year ago his days with the Sabres could be numbered.

He signed a one-year AHL contract in September with an invitation to training camp. New coach Dan Bylsma seemed intent on giving Kaleta a long look before he was injured.

“I still know I can play in the NHL, and it’s going to be a thing I can get fired up about,” Kaleta said. “But I’m going to try use it as a positive moving forward, see what the summer brings. Hopefully, it’s going to bring an opportunity to be able to do what I can do and prove to people that I still got it.”

6 thoughts on “Patrick Kaleta frustrated by Amerks stint”

  1. He was invisible when he did play, and being hurt all the time didn’t help. Buffalo would be wise to let him retire. He received no offers from the 29 other teams I would assume. He’s an AHL caliber player that stayed in the NHL longer than he should have because of the Sabres “loyalty”. If they want to stop being lovable losers, they need to pass on guys like him. I was happy to see the Amerks get him, but it ended up a waste of everyone’s time. Let him go.

  2. You can say that he didn’t score much and that would be accurate. However, it is not accurate to say that he was “invisible when he did play”. He ignited the Sabres a great deal, at least when they did play. Every team needs an agitator, especially our young Sabres…Duane Sutter, Kenny “the Rat” Linseman…the list goes on forever on contending teams. Marcus Foligno has more talent than Kaleta, but not in the agitator category. I agree with him that he would create space for our young, talented team.

  3. Sorry Mr Mellow but Kaleta is exactly the kind of player you find on a basement dweller. He has zero value to this current Sabres squad. If he did have NHL value one of the other 29 teams would have offered him a contract. If it weren’t for the Sabres organization he would be out of hockey.

  4. He sucks, it’s over…there’s no place for a bum like that on the team they are building now.

    I’m pissed he took 26 games away from someone younger like Cason Hohmann who lit up the ECHL with a point per game.

    Never liked Kaleta, he’s always been a career AHL’er…and Jack Eichel doesn’t need Patrick Kaleta to create space for him.

    Goodbye, good riddance…please cut this loser.

  5. For those of you who hadn’t given it all that much thought, it might be worth pointing out that hockey is a very cerebral sport: it’s 5% talent and ability and 95% getting into your opponent’s head enough to convince him that he really doesn’t want to win tonight’s game as much as he thought he did, especially if it means getting crushed every time he tries to touch the puck along the boards, in the corners or in front of your net. Because the teams that are beating Buffalo are the ones that have figured out that THERE SIMPLY IS NO PRICE TO BE PAID for playing the Sabres. With one or two exceptions this is still a pitti-pat hockey team: wave your stick at the puck and peel off to ‘position yourself’ for their attack. And the teams that understand this and feel free to fore-check the Sabres to death have no problem winning when they meet. I have listened to the commentators wax poetic on the necessity of having experienced players in the organization who can ‘teach the younger players what it means to be a pro’ until I am ready to spit up. Want to know ‘what it means to be a pro’? Then watch Patrick Kaleta. Kaleta is the guy who gets sent out there to kill penalties, shadow the other team’s best player and draw more penalties than he takes while getting only a few minutes ice-time each night, game in and game out. He’s the guy giving you 110% every time he steps onto the ice and leaving his broken body and his blood out there for a fraction of the money those much younger ‘superstars’ are making coming out of the gate. And for a hell of a lot less respect, too. Meanwhile the morons in the upper deck are busily stuffing their faces full of pizza and hot dogs and trashing him for being ‘a goon’ and ‘washed up’ and shouting ‘good riddance’ and ‘cut him loose’ as soon as it looks like he’s down. Should Kaleta be in Buffalo? No question. But will he be? No way. Tim Murray looks to be one of those GMs who are only interested in winning a championship if they can do it only with the players THEY have personally selected. Remember what he said about Steve Ott? ‘I’ve waited 14 years to have a player like him on my team.” And then he unloaded him. And Murray definitely didn’t pick Pat Kaleta. Hell, if I was Ennis or Zemgus I’d be seriously wondering where I’ll be playing next year, too. But with Kaleta there isn’t even that. He’s already been buried in the minors. When they cut him loose there won’t even be a ripple to show where the body went under. But good luck to the man. No one deserves it more. Patrick Kaleta’s guy who bled blue and gold for his team and his city every time he was called on … and wound up in a body-bag for his efforts.

  6. The Sabres weren’t the only team that passed on him. When he was put on waivers, no team picked him up. When his contract expired, no team offered him an NHL contract.

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