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This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Spacek comes aboard

    July 5, 2006 -- The Buffalo Sabres made a rare move into the free agent market on this day, adding a veteran defenseman.

   Jaroslav Spacek made the jump from the Edmonton Oilers. Tim Graham had the story for The News:

   The Buffalo Sabres went a long way toward calming any offseason anxiety by signing one of this summer's better unrestricted free agents.

    The Sabres on Wednesday signed defenseman Jaroslav Spacek to a three-year pact worth $10 million, making him the team's highest-paid player. The significant addition comes two days after winger Mike Grier walked away echoing former teammates' concerns that the Sabres might not remain competitive for the long haul.

    "You can look at Spacek signing today, and it gives you an indication of ownership's commitment to keeping this club very competitive," Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier said.

    Spacek, a two-way defenseman who can log big minutes, was a major contributor to the Edmonton Oilers' successful postseason. The Oilers reached Game Seven of the Stanley Cup finals but fell to the Carolina Hurricanes.The Stanley Cup finals provided Spacek (pronounced SPA-check) a stage to display his talents. After toiling for six seasons with the Florida Panthers, Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets and skating in only four playoff games, he had a breakout postseason with the Oilers.

    "No one really knew how good of a hockey player he was because he was playing for obscure, losing teams," agent Stephen Freyer said from his office in Beverly, Mass. "The exposure in Edmonton helped, but the new NHL was incredible for his game. He's the prototypical post-lockout defenseman. He can skate, pass, get the puck out of the zone. He's got a boomer from the right point."

    The Sabres will pay Spacek $3.225 million next season, $3.475 million in 2007-08 and $3.3 million in 2008-09. That surpasses co-captain Chris Drury at $3.154 million as the richest Sabre -- although that likely will change in the coming days.

--- Budd Bailey

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