The Sabres didn't advertise it, but The Buffalo News on Thursday night learned they suspended Teppo Numminen without pay for failing to report to training camp in proper physical condition. The 39-year-old defenseman must have his heart worked on a third time, although this procedure is for a different condition than the previous two.
The suspension is a formality, but it doesn't reflect well on the organization at first blush. There are reasons to suspend a player, as the Ducks did earlier this week with captain Scott Niedermayer, who's hemming and hawing about whether or not he's going to retire.
Suspended players don't count toward the salary cap, and the Ducks are jammed up against it. Despite a legitimate justification, Ducks GM Brian Burke said "It wasn't a fun phone call," when he had to suspend Niedermayer.
The Sabres are nearly $5 million under the cap and have insisted they won't get near the ceiling. Numminen isn't screwing around like Niedermayer, instead facing a career-threatening, non-hockey-related medical issue. If he's going to miss an extended period, the Sabres could put him on long-term injured reserve and spend his $2.6 million if they somehow go over the cap.
Furthermore, the Sabres knew of his heart conditions when they signed him two years ago. They've since re-signed him twice. Numminen had a procedure done to correct an irregular heart beat before the lockout and had the same thing done last summer.
What do you think the Canadiens would have done if a team physical showed Saku Koivu's cancer had returned over the summer? Suspend him?
Sports is a business, and the Sabres have every reason to suspend last season's alternate captain just in case they need to wiggle out of the $2.6 million guaranteed contract they gave him two months ago, fully aware he has a history of heart problems.
So it's well within the rules, like Kevin Lowe's offer sheet to Thomas Vanek. But it sure doesn't look too classy. Maybe that's why the Sabres didn't announce their suspension as the Ducks did with Niedermayer.