Agitator Patrick Kaleta is pretty good at his job. His job isn’t to score goals, it’s not to win face offs, he’s not even responsible for setting up his team mates with passes. His job is to, well, agitate.
New Buffalo Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma coached against Kaleta from 2008 to 2014. And to say Kaleta didn’t get on Bylsma’s nerves may be a bit of an understatement.
"I have a hard time not wanting to kill him," Bylsma said. "I’ve told him that."
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Kaleta is skating with the Sabres at training camp under a professional tryout contract. The 29-year-old forward signed an AHL contract with the Sabres during the offseason. Kaleta has played in 348 games for the Sabres, recording 27 goals, 27 assists and 542 penalty minutes. Kaleta has been suspended numerous times throughout his career for illegal hits, and even a couple of head-butts.
But even though Kaleta’s head coach wants to premeditatedly murder him, Kaleta is still catching Bylsma’s eye, and he is having a great camp.
"When you go into a season and look at contracts and you try to put people with those contracts into situations, we don’t have a lot of opportunity," Bylsma said. "But I think as a veteran and as a guy in Pat’s shoes you have to come out and do exactly what he’s doing in camp, which is play his style, play his game."
The Sabres currently have over $8.5 million in cap space, according to General Fanager, with 16 forwards on the roster. Money is not the issue for the Sabres, but finding a consistent roster spot for Kaleta might be. And while the top-six forwards for the Sabres is shaping up nicely, there are several candidates that could fit within the Sabres’ bottom-six forward grouping. And virtually all can produce more offensively than Kaleta.
The Sabres have a decision to make: Do they go with a little bit more skill within their bottom six, or do they utilize a dying breed within their fourth line, an NHL enforcer?