Kaleta has been injury-prone through his 267 career games, but Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier said that didn’t factor into negotiations because of how Kaleta has modified his game.
“No, I don’t think it was [a concern] this year, mostly because the growth in his game, the growth in him as a person, his professionalism, how he approaches the game, the recognition that he had to change his game,” Regier said. “The league changed some rules that impacted his game — I think he made some big strides in adjusting to that last year. … He’s learning how to adapt to the rules, how to become more valuable for the team.”
Regier also added he feels better that Kaleta has “made big strides in things like equipment and making sure he protects himself.”
Regier wouldn’t specify what type of padding Kaleta has added, but said he’s pushed equipment companies to ensure their pads are doing what they’re made for.
Kaleta said strength-wise, he’s never been better than he is now, and thinks he’s finally wrapping his head around the mind-set needed to be less reckless. He played a career-high 63 games last year and saw a bump in ice time due to his performance as a penalty killer, but knows he needs to reel it in — even for someone who confesses, “I like blocking shots.”
“I think at times he was probably guilty of being reckless, not for personal gain, usually for team gain, taking his hands in front of shots, stuff like that. He’s learning how to adapt to the rules, how to become more valuable for the team. He’s a very good penalty killer. He’s a fearless player. He’s a tough player to play against, and I think you’ll really see his game grow over the next few years.”
Don’t think Kaleta will lose all his aggressiveness, though.
“I like doing it, I like blocking shots, which you might find kind of weird, but I also like doing Legos,” said Kaleta, who still puts the plastic play sets together. “It’s a matter of changing my game and becoming more of a rounded person, taking more responsibility, and if I improve on that, I hope to have some minutes (again) like that this year, too.”