With the recent trades of veteran defensemen Robyn Regehr and Jordan Leopold, the Buffalo Sabres lost a combined 15 years of NHL experience on the blue-line. Fortunately for the club, 25 year-old Mike Weber has stepped into the leadership void to help guide the Sabres young defense.
Trades and injuries left Buffalo with only six active defensemen on the roster. Two of those six, Mark Pysyk and Adam Pardy, had started with the season with the team's AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans. And then during Thursday night's home loss to Montreal, the razor-thin D endured yet another loss when Tyler Myers suffered a broken bone in his leg and was declared out for the season.
With top minor league prospect Brayden McNabb also out with a knee injury, GM Darcy Regier signed free-agent Chad Ruhwedel to a two-year, entry-level contract. Ruhwedel then jumped right from the University of Massachusetts Lowell to playing his first professional hockey game, in a Sabres uniform on Saturday versus Philadelphia.
Ruhwedel was paired with Weber and played a solid game. And despite all of the upheaval and inexperience on defense, the Sabres pitched a shutout against the Flyers. Afterwards Ruhwedel credited Weber for his outstanding debut performance:
“It was surreal, these guys made my job a lot easier. Playing with Weber, it made my life just so easier and I couldn’t be thankful enough.”
Throughout this troubled Sabres season, Weber has developed into arguably the club's most consistent defenseman. He leads the team in blocked shots with 85. He is second on the team in hits with 108. And he has been decisive with puck while notching a goal and six assists.
No player on the Sabres has delivered more value for the dollar than Weber. As Tyler Myers disastrous season came to end with his injury, not many fans can overlook the $12 million he was paid this year. Yet all of Weber's contributions have cost Buffalo $950,000.
A relative bargain. At twice the price.
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