Kevin Oklobzija,Democrat and Chronicle staff writer
What in the world are the Rochester Americans going to do with Patrick Kaleta?
And what will Kaleta do with the Amerks?
We're going to find out very soon.
The Buffalo Sabres placed Kaleta on waivers today. If he goes unclaimed through noon on Sunday, he will be assigned to the Amerks. They are home Wednesday night to play the Hamilton Bulldogs.
As he plays the game now, Kaleta is of no use to the Sabres. His repeated illegal hits continue to lead to suspensions, and the punishment is becoming exponentially worse with every transgression.
His most recent dirty hit -- an upper arm/shoulder to the jaw of Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson on Oct. 10 -- earned him a 10-game suspension. He was eligible to return to the Sabres lineup tonight but they instead opted to place him on waivers.
Some sort of roster move was required because Corey Tropp came off injured reserve on Friday and will play his first game of the season tonight.
The Sabres obviously aren't ready to make a decision on 18-year-old defenseman Nikita Zadorov -- whether he stays all season or goes back to junior -- and they also can't afford to have an out-of-control Kaleta in their lineup.
Thus, any team can claim him -- and his $1.25 million salary. Considering the risk of losing a roster spot to a guy serving a 15- or 20-game suspension, it's impossible to imagine any team taking him. Especially since he has scored 1 goals in his past 65 games.
He was given a five-game suspension in March for sending New York Rangers forward Brad Richards into the side wall head-first. That was the worst hit of his career. Had Richards head hit the boards in a slightly different manner, he would have been a quadriplegic, according to spinal surgeon Dr. Robert Molinari of the U of R Medical Center.
His just-ended 10-game ban cost the Sabres a roster spot -- teams cannot replace a suspended player on the 23-man roster. They're paying him $1.25 million to play a checking, grinding, penalty-killing role, not to maim and then sit out for a month.
And I'm assuming when he appealed his suspension to Gary Bettman, the NHL commissioner made it very clear that the next transgression would lead to mind-boggling punishment.
Thus, assuming no team claims Kaleta, he will join the Amerks to undergo a transformation. He cannot continue to play "his" game. He must change, or he'll be out of hockey.