By Ch2 Sports Director Ed Kilgore
Sabres fans can continue pinching themselves over the good fortune of inheriting an owner who continues to show just how serious he is about making their Stanley Cup dreams become reality instead of nightmares.
Think how many NHL owners, or owners of ANY major league sports franchise, who would bother to personally fly their corporate jet out to Saskatchewan in Canada to help clinch a deal? Not to mention this player is not a star who will have a major impact on the team, but rather a player who fits the description of players the team needs to reach its goals?
That's exactly what Terry Pegula did, as he took wife Kim, also a powerful motivator in her own right, along with gm Darcy Regier and head coach Lindy Ruff to sit face-to-face with Robyn Regehr. While Regehr was already "on board" even before the flight, that added touch was far from the usual way owners conduct their business. The Sabres targeted Regehr as the perfect compliment to their talented young defense corps, but Regehr needed some convincing to waive a no move clause in his contract.
Who knows what would have happened under past ownerships, but the safe money would be on Regehr sticking to his guns and forcing Calgary to come up with another trade partner. But this isn't then, this is now, and we continue to see just how different things can look when there is a motivated owner who also has the financial freedom to charge full speed ahead.
It isn't just that Regehr will be making about $4 million a season for the next two seasons in Buffalo, which is a huge jump from what the Sabres would have been paying defenseman Chris Butler and center Paul Byron, who went to Calgary as part of the deal.
Just as important in this deal, is that Pegula was also willing to take under achieving forward Ales Kotalik's $3 million salary off Calgary's hands as well. That, in my mind, is why Pegula and the Sabres now have the 6-3, 225 pound Regehr on their roster and not some other team that would also love to have the 11 year veteran.
Could Kotalik actually help the Sabres, who dealt him to Edmonton in 2009? Darcy Regier made an astute move at the time, believing Kotalik was in decline, and Kotalik made that case by scoring only 22 goals in 116 games after departing Buffalo.
So why take him back now? To get Robyn Regehr. Oh, there's always the chance the 32 year old Kotalik will challenge for a roster spot, but more likely, he'll be a "star" attraction for Pegula's Rochester Amerks, and a player with NHL experience who can be called on if needed due to injuries.
Basically, Pegula is giving up $7 million a year to get the steady and physical Regehr to join the likes of Tyler Myers, and that amount of money would be a non starter for most owners. Not this one.
Pegula and the Sabres probably aren't finished, with July 1st rapidly approaching and the chance to make more deals if they're there. It's not just about spending, even with the cap moving up another few million, because the Sabres are now forced to give several talented young players hefty pay increases to keep them.
Certainly there are skeptics out there who would say don't get too excited just yet; the Sabres haven't really won anything yet, and even losing just one of six games in regulation to the Stanley Cup Champion Bruins means little other than as a way to point out the Sabres may not be all that far away.
Still, the move for Regehr continues to reinforce what we already pretty much knew; Terry Pegula is not just talking the talk.