With the arrival of Craig Rivet essentially replacing Dmitri Kalinin on the Sabres blueline, GM Darcy Regier yesterday suggested that his club is still looking at bringing Teppo Numminen back for one more season of NHL action. The argument of quality blueline depth will always make sense to Sabres fans. Bringing Numminen back at a reasonable price would accomplish that, but one should wonder if the dollars need to be spent given the fact that Maxim Afinogenov and his $3.5MM salary (3.3 cap) are still idling on the roster. As is, the financially responsible Regier would be wise to wait until training camp to further evaluate his defensive corps and really find out if Teppo is needed. The "wait" isn't all about the dollars. It's about icing your best team. If Andrej Sekera has advanced himself into Buffalo's top-6 ahead of current #7 Nathan Paetsch, it would seem that a Numminen signing would automatically send 21-year old rearguard Mike Weber to Portland (AHL) to start. Weber played well in his 16 games with Buffalo last season, averaging 16:40 of ice time while topping all blueliners with a +12 rating. The healthy bodies of Rivet, Henrik Tallinder, Jaroslav Spacek, and Toni Lydman could indeed mean that Weber's greatest amount of ice time would be had in the AHL. However, the organization as a whole needs to ice their six best defensemen every night in the NHL. Weber's brief audition revealed a guy who was just about there, and you can bet he'll be ready to fight for it moving forward. On the surface, Weber is still young and developing. He emerged as a leader early during his first season with Rochester in 2007-08, mixing responsible play with a little old time hockey to set the pace in the Amerks +/- and PIM columns. Adding him to the group of Mike Funk, Mike Card, Mike Kostka, Chris Butler, and apparently Marc-Andre Gragnani (we still prefer him as a LW) makes the Portland blueline crop more formidable and experienced. At the same time, re-signing Nolan Pratt primarily for AHL duty could offer leadership on the farm, and a chance for Weber to continue growing with the big club. With improved footwork making him more effective at both ends, he's big enough and strong enough to make it happen in camp this fall. The below puts Weber's immediate NHL impact into perspective more than anything else.
2007-08 Top 5 D-men in hits/game* Mike Komisarek - 3.55 (75 gp) Brooks Orpik - 3.07 (78 gp) Zdeno Chara - 2.89 (77 gp) Mike Weber - 2.81 (16 gp) Stephane Robidas - 2.68 (82 gp) *players who appeared in more than one gameTaking it all in, the usually patient Sabres are going to have a hard time sending Weber to Portland if his physical play reflects his first 16 games. Numminen has been an admirable performer for the Sabres, but Buffalo is a blue collar town in need of a blue collar D.