Michael Peca appreciated the salutations he heard every day from those who wanted him to come back to the Sabres. He badly wanted to return, too.
The feeling wasn't mutual from the team's standpoint, however, and any hopes Sabres fans held of embracing their former captain once again were squashed today, when the East Amherst resident signed a one-year deal with the Blue Jackets.
Turns out Peca this summer never thought he had a genuine shot of playing for Buffalo. Although the Sabres could use a veteran leader, another center, an effective penalty killer and a faceoff man (all things Peca can do), there was no room on the roster for him and their payroll is plenty high as it is. He's also coming off a nasty leg injury that limited him to 35 games last season.
"I think they've got a group of young leaders on the team, and the only way for them to flourish was to keep it the way it was," Peca told The Buffalo News today while house hunting in Columbus. "I never saw it as something that probably was going to happen."
He said he was contacted by members of the organization who were interested in brining him back, but that list of supporters didn't include GM Darcy Regier.
"I don't think I got my hopes up," Peca said. "You start wondering if there's a chance based on what people are telling you. You get caught up in this whole hearsay whirlwind, but ultimately the general manager makes the decision."
It would have been a great PR move for the Sabres to bring Peca back.
Given his injury and the bulging roster as it stands, however, not signing him seems like the prudent move.