Niagara Gazette

Sports

November 1, 2006

NHL INSIDER: Move with Connolly makes signing more dubious

Wednesday’s news that Tim Connolly was moved to long-term injured reserve in an attempt to free up cap space makes the Sabres' off-season signing of the free agent center even more puzzling.

Connolly was one of the team’s best players while on the ice last season, but he missed 17 games last season after missing all of the year prior to the lockout.

Connolly, who got a three-year deal worth nearly $9 million, has reportedly had trouble on a stationary bike, making his progression back to the NHL seem improbable.

General Manager Darcy Regier has been painstakingly calculated when it comes to other players, comparing the worth of J.P. Dumont, Taylor Pyatt and others before letting them hit the open market.

In Connolly, however, he’s made one of his biggest gaffes. And the loss of Henrik Tallinder for two months, meaning the Sabres will have to get help from Rochester and inflate a contract to NHL standards, has only put the mistake in a brighter light.

•••

We’ve heard how Western New York lags far behind the nation in stats like property values, job growth and average income.

The news is better when it comes to NHL attendance increases. The Sabres attendance is up a league-high 41 percent from last year, while the Carolina Hurricanes are up more than 20 percent.

A total of 10 teams are at or above the listed 100 percent capacity — Montreal, Detroit, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Calgary, Ottawa, Buffalo, Vancouver, Minnesota and the New York Rangers.

But at the opposite end of the spectrum, the numbers get a little frightening. St. Louis, once a stronghold in the Midwest, is filling less than 60 percent of its seats while the New York Islanders have the league’s lowest average attendance at 10,689.

Chicago, which has been dropping slowly through the past seven seasons, is now at about 60 percent capacity through six games.

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