BUFFALO, N.Y. – Unable to meet defenceman Jaroslav Spacek’s contract demands, the Buffalo Sabres wasted little time to find an experienced – but less expensive – replacement: Steve Montador.
The seven-year NHL veteran agreed to a two-year US$3.1 million contract shortly after free-agency opened Wednesday. He’ll make $1.55 million – nearly double what he earned last year – in each season.
Montador had four goals and 17 assists in 78 games last season, which he finished with Boston after being acquired from Anaheim in March. He is a physical player who picked up 143 penalty minutes last season.
Listed at six feet and 211 pounds, Montador lacks Spacek’s offensive touch, but does provide the Sabres with more toughness along the blue line.
“We think there’s still an upside to his game,” general manager Darcy Regier said, referring to Montador. “And knowing that we were going to lose Jaro, we felt we needed to bring someone in. … With the grittiness and toughness he brings, it’s an added dimension for us.”
The Sabres had given up on re-signing Spacek, who became a free agent after rejecting the team’s one-year contract offer. Spacek, who led Buffalo defencemen with eight goals and 45 points last season, signed a three-year contract reportedly worth $11.5 million with Montreal on Wednesday.
Montador jumped at the opportunity to play with the Sabres, because of the immediate interest they showed in him, and because Buffalo is a short drive from his family and friends in Mississauga, Ont.
“It was an easy decision on a number of levels,” Montador said by phone. “One, it’s always been a competitive team. … And another point, it’s close to home. I haven’t been this close in a number of years.”
Undrafted after completing his Canadian junior career, Montador broke into the NHL with Calgary during the 2001-02 season. He also spent three seasons playing with Florida, including 2007-08, when he had career bests with eight goals and 23 points in 73 games.
Montador will be given an opportunity to compete for a job among the Sabres top-two defensive pairings, which will include returning veterans Craig Rivet, Toni Lydman and Henrik Tallinder. The Sabres are also high on several youngsters including Andrej Sekera and Chris Butler.
Tyler Myers, the team’s 2008 first-round draft pick, will also be given an opportunity to make the team this season, though he’s still eligible to play junior hockey.