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Buffalo, NY – At the start of the offseason there were plenty of fans and media members who felt that Patrick Kaleta’s time with the organization was coming to end. However, as time went on it became more obvious that he was going to stick around.
Now, he’ll be here for at least a few more years as he signed a 3-year contract worth a reported $3.7-million with the Sabres on Tuesday.
“It’s an amazing feeling first of all, being part of the team I love to play for,” said Kaleta. “Now, I can put all my focus towards training, and getting ready for the season.”
Kaleta, 26, has been a fan favorite since joining the Sabres during the 2006-2007 season. His first career game was the infamous Sabres/Senators game from February 22, 2007 that saw him record his first point, an assist, and his first fight, against Chris Phillips.
Kaleta admitted that there was a bit of stress and nervousness about whether or not he’d be back, but that’s all gone now that he’s in Buffalo for the next three years.
“I’m just happy,” he said. “The longer I can stay here in Buffalo, and play for my teammates and my family, the happier I’ll be.”
Kaleta played in a career high 63 games last season, but still dealt with the injury bug that has plagued him over the past few seasons. However, he admits that he’s working on becoming more responsible, and smarter when it comes to his on-ice decision-making.
“Injuries have happened, and maybe I haven’t had the best choices in the world in me getting hurt, but I’m working on that,” said Kaleta. “I’m trying to make myself better, and trying to put it in my head that it’s not always the right decision to throw your hand in front of a shot.”
When it came to keeping him around, general manager Darcy Regier said that his past injuries didn’t have an effect on negotiations. “ I dont think it was this year mostly because of the growth in his game,” said Regier. “At times he was guilty of being reckless, not for personal gain, but for team gain. He’s learning to adapt to the rules.”
With Paul Gaustad no longer on the team, Kaleta instantly becomes arguably Buffalo’s top penalty killer, a job that Kaleta full accepts and enjoys.
“I’ve watched a lot of video this summer so far, and I’m going to continue to improve on that because it’s an important part of the game,” he said. “I love doing it, I like blocking shots which you might find kind of weird.”
Regier believes that Kaleta will continue to improve, “He’s a very good penalty killer. He’s a fearless player. He’s a tough player to play against. I think you’ll really see his game grow over the next few years.”
The team has made no bones about wanting to be a tougher team to play against. It’s been stated numerous times by coaches, management, and players. By retaining Kaleta, the team continues to put forth the persona of being a tough and stingy team next season. A persona that Kaleta feels makes the team better.
“Yea, for sure. Just in personnel. Our goal this year is to focus on coming out of the gates rumbling here and starting the season like we finished last year. With the new additions we will be tougher to play against, and I think that’s a good thing.”
featured image courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images