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This Day in Buffalo Sports History: A new face in town

    July 5, 2006 -- The Buffalo Sabres usually aren't too active when it comes to the free-agent market. So it was noteworthy when the team signed Jaroslav Spacek, a veteran defenseman who had played out his contract with the Edmonton Oilers.

   Spacek agreed to a three-year deal worth $10 million, making him the highest-paid player on the team. The signing came only a few days after Mike Grier had left the Sabres as a free agent, fueling thoughts that the Sabres weren't prepared to keep up with the rest of the league in terms of talent.

    "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 was a big part of the Oilers' team that reached the Stanley Cup finals in 2006, losing to the Carolina Hurricanes. He had also played with Florida, Chicago and Columbus.

   "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."

   Spacek played out his three-year deal with the Sabres. He didn't get much playing time at the start, but his production went up on a year-to-year basis. Then he jumped to the Montreal Canadiens a year ago.

--- Budd Bailey

   This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: James Lofton, Bills' receiver - 1956; Booker Edgerson, Bills' cornerback - 1939.

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