Spacek leaves Oilers for multiyear deal with Sabres
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Sabres are done shopping for defensemen in free agency after Jaroslav Spacek agreed Wednesday to a three-year contract worth about $10 million.
Spacek's addition gives Buffalo six regular defensemen and makes up for the loss of Jay McKee, who signed with St. Louis last weekend. A seven-year veteran, Spacek played a significant role in helping the Edmonton Oilers reach the Stanley Cup final last month.
Now Buffalo can turn its attention to getting under contract the team's 12 regulars who opted to file for salary arbitration by Wednesday's NHL deadline.
The group includes co-captain Daniel Briere and last season's leading scorer Maxim Afinogenov. Although the Sabres retained the rights to all 12 by issuing qualifying offers last month, the players had the option to have an arbitrator determine their salaries for next season.
Buffalo won't have to worry about its once-depleted blue line with Spacek's addition coming two days after the team re-signed veteran Teppo Numminen to a one-year deal.
Spacek is a strong puck-handler and capable at both ends, the prototype for defensemen in the new offense-friendly NHL.
"He's a great fit for this group," general manager Darcy Regier said. "He's just a solid player that can play in all situations."
Regier noted Spacek will get time on the power-play because he has a strong shot and is a good passer.
Spacek had 12 goals and 31 assists in 76 games last season, split between Chicago and Edmonton. The Oilers acquired him in a trade in January.
Spacek had a strong postseason, finishing second among defensemen with 14 points (three goals, 11 assists) in 24 games while averaging nearly 26 minutes a game.
The deal represents a significant raise for Spacek, who made $2.25 million last season before becoming an unrestricted free agent for the second time in his career.
Spacek's agent, Stephen Freyer, said his client chose Buffalo in part because of the Sabres' success last season and because the team came close to signing him last summer.
Freyer said Spacek was also intent on returning to the Eastern Conference, where there is less travel, after spending the past five seasons in the West.
Florida's fifth-round pick in the 1998 draft, the Czech Republic native broke into the NHL with the Panthers later that season.
Spacek has 51 goals and 154 assists for 205 points in 496 career games. His most productive season came with Columbus in 2002-03, when he had nine goals and 36 assists in 81 games.
Other Sabres opting for salary arbitration were forwards Tim Connolly, J.P. Dumont, Paul Gaustad, Ales Kotalik, Adam Mair, Andrew Peters, Jason Pominville, and defensemen Brian Campbell, Toni Lydman and Henrik Tallinder.
The Sabres also learned Wednesday that assistant coach Scott Arniel was named head coach of the Manitoba Moose, the Vancouver Canucks' AHL affiliate. He played a key role on NHL coach of the year Lindy Ruff's staff last season, overseeing a power-play unit which converted 21 percent of its chances to finish third in the league.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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