True Value?

by Ryan

Yesterday Pat Kaleta accepted his qualifying offer from the Sabres. It was another small piece of news in the Sabres’ determined effort to lull area hockey fans into a summer slumber. The news of Kaleta’s signing means a 10% raise from last year’s salar, which correctly puts at $550,000.

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At first I was a bit surprised by Kaleta signing without arbitration getting involved, but the more I thought about it the more it makes sense. Looking at Kaleta’s numbers he doesn’t have a very strong positon to argue from.

Despite Kaleta’s utility, his impact on the ice simply doesn’t translate into traditional numbers. His aggressive style leaves him vulnerable to injuries and in turn leads to a lack of games played and limited ice time. The minimal TOI and linemates means minimal scoring touch and low point totals; and Kaleta hasn’t seen much time with the special teams units.

On paper Kaleta looks like a low-skill player with a lot of penalty minutes, but Sabres fans know he’s much more than a heavyweight with no hands. While it is true that Kaleta has only slight offensive potential, his value on the ice is what shows up in the other team’s box score. The penalties he draws are much more valuable to the team than anything he can contribute of value in a statistical category.

In fact when he is most effective, the result is straight zeros on a box score. Zeros mean he was defensively responsible while raising hell along the wall, and probably taking a punch or two. It might not be a hockey purists’ idea of a grinder, but it’s the way Lindy has utilized the Angola native since he made the leap from Rochester two years ago.

While Kaleta’s deal does indeed make sense, it’s an interesting concept to explore. You could argue that despite his low point production, Kaleta is a relative steal at a half million dollars per season. What he brings to the lineup and his ability to alter a game is much more important than his cap hit, but it’s not something that can be registered by an ordinary stat category.

Guys like Kaleta seem difficult to come by, but (for now at least), they seem fairly cheap.