BUFFALO – Patrick Kaleta just finished serving his 10-game suspension for hitting Columbus’ Jack Johnson in the head last month. The agitator is also fully healthy after recently undergoing nose surgery.
Still, the 27-year-old winger wasn’t on the ice this morning prior to tonight’s tilt against the Anaheim Ducks inside the First Niagara Center.
Now we know why.
In a surprising move, the Sabres have waived Kaleta, a native of nearby Angola.
The Sabres had to make a move to activate winger Corey Tropp from injured reserve. Perhaps they think Tropp’s grit can replace Kaleta’s.
Having been suspended four times in four seasons, including twice in his last 21 games, the Sabres had clearly grown tired of his style.
“This was a move we thought was necessary to help Pat change his game and preserve his career in this league,” Sabres general manager Darcy Regier said in a statement. “We believe in Pat as a person and we hope he will continue his career in our organization and, if the circumstances are right, with the Buffalo Sabres.”
Eyebrows went up when Kaleta wasn’t skating this morning. Sabres coach Ron Rolston had benched Kaleta after his five-game boarding suspension ended in March, so something similar had happened before. Kaleta was seething back then.
“I think he’s a good heart-and-soul player for us, good teammate, plays hard, competitive, been good on the penalty kill,” Rolston said about Kaleta this morning.
Kaleta has 27 goals, 51 points and 506 penalty minutes in 306 NHL games. He would go to Rochester, where he hasn’t played since 2007-08.
Kaleta, 176th overall pick in 2004, said Friday he had changed over the years.
“A lot of people can say I haven’t changed, but you can tell that they haven’t watched the team then,” he said. “People that have watched the team have seen me change over time. It’s just as simple as (I now play the) penalty kill. That’s it.”
With Tropp returning, 19-year-old Mikhail Grigorenko will sit. The Russian has one assist in 13 games. Rolston has recently tried skating Grigorenko on the wing.
“I think you’re going to see a lot of that from our younger guys,” Rolston said. “They’ll probably be in at times and out at times.”
In other news, tough guy John Scott, who won’t appeal his seven-game suspension for hitting Boston’s Loui Eriksson’s in the head last week, said he’ll “err on the side of caution for now on.”
“I just got to be a little more responsible and really pay attention to how the other players, how his head lines up, if he’s vulnerable in any way,” said Scott, who noted he had a “good” and “frank” conversation with NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan during Thursday’s hearing.
Scott, while acknowledging he shouldn’t have hit Eriksson high, doesn’t believe the hit was late. He blamed NBC commentator Pierre McGuire for making viewers believe that.
“I think Pierre McGuire shooting his mouth off right after the hit got that on a lot of peoples’ minds,” Scott said. “‘It’s a late hit, it’s an elbow, it’s a high hit.’ He was just kind of throwing out all these different things, just hopefully one will stick. It wasn’t a late hit. It was just kind of an unfortunate circumstance.”
Update: Here’s Regier explaining the Sabres’ decision to waive Kaleta. He said the Sabres tried trading him but found no takers. It’s “50-50” if he clears, Regier said. He also said Rolston’s job is safe.
On where the NHL is at in regards to hitting and where Kaleta’s game is at:
“I think there is a significant amount of work that he will have to do to redesign his game in order to give him an opportunity to play. When we talked about it internally, if it was with us, it had to take place in Rochester.”
On if sending Kaleta down will help the Sabres get a better standing with the league:
“Part of that is to help the organization, certainly, to put the organization in a position to be able to play and compete and we don’t want to be under the thumb of the National Hockey League, and I think we are a little bit.”