|Patrick Lalime (photo: Getty Images) |
As Patrick Lalime weighed his options during NHL free-agency this summer, it was his family that naturally served as the primary consultants in choosing a team.
But to solidify the deal, it took an outside source to convince the 34-year-old netminder to ultimately make a decision - the Buffalo Sabres coaching staff.
“That was pretty much the deal-breaker when I had the chance to talk to those guys,” Lalime said. “They made me feel very good about the organization, about the city and the team.”
And most importantly, about playing time.
“At first I wasn’t too sure [about coming to Buffalo],” Lalime said. “Ryan [Miller] is a very good goaltender who played 76 games last year. You have to take that into consideration.”
Spending the past two seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks, Lalime played in 44 contests compiling a 20-18-3 record. According to the Quebec native, the coaching staff assured him he would have a similar role and he expects to play “around 15 games or something like that.”
After considering the remaining details, the decision was an easy one for Lalime.
“Everybody I talked to around the league told me about the city,” he said. “They said it was a great place to live and raise a family; the schools are great, the fans are great. It sounded like a good deal for me.”
Among those he consulted were former Sabres netminders Martin Biron, and Jocelyn Thibault, as well as forward J.P. Dumont.
“They told me that it’s the kind of place that once you go there, you just want to stay,” Lalime said. “Overall, it just seemed right.”
A 34-year-old veteran of nine NHL seasons, Lalime can not only ease the burden for Ryan Miller
and accumulate some playing time, but can also provide experience on a young roster.
“This team reminds me a little bit of the situation we had in Chicago- a lot of young players, but a very talented team,” Lalime said. “There seems to be a very tight group over there too which is nice. That’s what you want in a team. I want to jump into that and help in any way I can with my experience.”
It seems the only person Lalime has yet to talk to about coming to Buffalo is Miller.
“I met him once when he first came up [to the NHL] and we played Buffalo,” Lalime said. “I heard a lot of good things about him and we chatted a little bit at the red line. He seems like a gentleman and an excellent goaltender. I look forward to working with him.”
Finally, he looks forward to being back in the Eastern Conference where he began his career. Originally drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1993 (sixth round, 156th overall), Lalime went on set the NHL record for longest unbeaten streak by a rookie goaltender to start his career, going 14-0-2.
He then spent five seasons with the Ottawa Senators before being traded to the St. Louis Blues in 2004.
“That was a big thing too, being closer to family. But mostly it was about playing on a good team.
“After that, it comes down to a feeling you get.”