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Home Team Ripoff

Wow. So much for the hometown discount! The Sabres gave Tim Connolly an extension for two years at $9 million. That's stunning. It's an average of $4.5 million a season -- a raise of more than 50 percent over Connolly's previous three-year deal, which averaged $2.9 million a year.

Just think how much Connolly would have gotten if he'd actually lived up to the existing deal. He played about a third of the games during that time. Now we know how ludicrous it was to suggest that Connolly would sign for lesser money -- that hometown discount -- just to make things right with fans in Buffalo.

Some people will suggest that Connolly could have gotten more in the open market. I doubt it. While I thought all along that some team would be willing to beat his previous deal, it's hard to imagine any other team going much higher than $4.5 million.

So in the end, the Sabres caved in. They overpaid for Connolly, even though he had burned them the first time. It's a bad deal. As I wrote last month, it was time to cut bait and let someone else take on the huge injury risk. Instead, they gladly take on two more years of it.

It seems to me the Sabres decided they had to take a run at the playoffs this year. But they also weren't willing to keep Connolly for the short term and let him walk for nothing.  They wanted to win both ends of the PR war. Keep Timmy and let the public know how they truly value his talent. They're determined to get a bigger return on their original gamble. So if Connolly suffers another major injury, they could wind up paying him $18 million over five years -- for a guy who played about half the time.

It's a rousing endorsement of soft, finesse hockey. The apologists will continue to gush about Connolly and how he might be the team's most talented player. But to me, this is about Darcy Regier wanting to justify the original contract (not to mention the deal for Michael Peca that brought Connolly to Buffalo) and be right about a soft, injury-prone player.

This is what happens when a GM stays in his job for too long. He becomes unafraid to compound his past mistakes.

(For full coverage of today's NHL trading deadline, go to the Sabres Edge blog).

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