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This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Michael Peca

    (Born March 26, 1974) -- Michael Peca and the Buffalo Sabres seemed like the perfect marriage ... for a while. It just didn't last.

     Peca was drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the second round in 1992. He spent most of the following season in junior hockey but arrived in the pros for good in the 1993-94 campaign. Peca came to Buffalo with Mike Wilson and a first-round draft pick (Jay McKee) for Alexander Mogilny.

     Peca spent the next five seasons with the Sabres. He turned into an outstanding defensive center here, mixing determination, skill and grit. What's more, he could score as well. Peca had 27 goals in the 1998-99 season, which ended with the Sabres in the Stanley Cup finals.

     But there was another legacy involving Peca -- contract problems. He missed part of the 1997-98 season because of a financial dispute. Then in 2000-01, the center sat out the entire season. Agent Don Meehan reportedly urged Peca to take the Sabres' last offer in order to make sure he played, but Peca was determined to get what he considered his market value.

     The stalemate ended when Peca was traded to the Islanders for Tim Connolly and Taylor Pyatt. He won his second Frank Selke Trophy as the league's best defensive forward in 2002 (the other was in 1997). Peca later played with the Oilers, Maple Leafs and Blue Jackets.

     Now retired, Peca serves as the general manager of the Buffalo Junior Sabres.

--- Budd Bailey

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