With the National Hockey League‘s free agency frenzy slightly over a month away, the Buffalo Sabres will be faced with some in-house decisions regarding the status of certain players. We intend to look at each situation, provide some analysis (the key word is some) and share our opinion on where they will wind up. Who shall stay and who will depart? We’ll now be moving on to Mike Weber.
Contract Details: Pending restricted free agent
Last Year: Salary of $1 million and cap hit of $950,000
The Scoop: A healthy scratch for the first handful of games, Weber’s season debut was delayed, but he was prepared to compete when he was scribbled onto the team’s roster sheet. That night with the Toronto Maple Leafs in town, he stepped forward and confronted Mike Brown after a questionable hit on Patrick Kaleta. The officials sentenced him to 17 minutes worth of penalties, but if you consider the alternative (letting Brown get away with his check), every part of his response was deemed acceptable. He’ll never ever be mistaken for Shea Weber in terms of shooting or guiding a power play, but his roughhouse style is certainly on par, even if he has yet to smash a player’s head on the glass with his hand.
Why They Would Want to Keep Him: Weber blocks shots fearlessly and slams opponents into the boards vehemently, making him a quintessential piece of Buffalo’s blue line. With some of the older, more aged players like Robyn Regehr and Jordan Leopold swapping their Sabres sweaters for different colors in the Western Conference, Weber will be counted on to be even more of an influence within the locker room. Voted as the club’s “Unsung Hero” by his teammates, the sixth-year professional is excited to be a leader on the back end, and head coach Ron Rolston believes he has already shown a lot of maturity.
What Will Worry Them: His penalties can be worrying and back-breaking as he gets over-aggressive at times. Returning to his lack of offensive prowess, Weber is not one of the transition defensemen who usually starts the rush with a crisp pass or springs a forward on a breakaway. If someone fore-checks emphatically, he can be pressed into turning the puck over in a bad spot, leading to a prime scoring chance or worse yet, a goal.
Final Verdict: Weber was one of the few Sabres to escape with any credibility in 2013, sacrificing without hesitation and urging others to be equally passionate. Because he is young, adapting noticeably and receiving applause from his coach, it makes sense to re-sign Weber.
Follow Rafal Ladysz on twitter.