The Case for Buying Out Christian Ehrhoff

Many Sabres fans were convinced Tim Murray was going to be one of the busier GM’s in the league during the draft and the days leading up to it; the collection of tradeable assets and desire to move back in to the 1st round made the assertion seem like a no brainer. Despite his best efforts, when the Devils made the final pick of the night Murray had yet to make a move. Although Murray and his staff came away with an impressive haul of new talent to add to an already formidable collection of prospects, many were left wanting.

Then we all woke up on Sunday to the news that Christian Ehrhoff, the last of Darcy Regier’s marquee signings from 2011, was on the way out; a victim of the Sabres’ 2nd amnesty buyout. There have been many opinions shared about the surprising move in the 24 or so hours since the news broke; some feel the move was a good one based on the player’s desire (or lack thereof) to be in the Queen City, while others lamented it was poor use of an asset
.
Tim Murray has gone on record stating that Ehrhoff’s attitude and the fear of repercussions from a possible cap recapture penalty (if Ehrhoff were to call it a career prior to his contract ending) played a major role in the decision. I won’t get into whether or not a player’s desire to play for a given team is a plausible reason to buy him out, that’s a different debate for a different day. Continue reading

Who is the Next Captain of the Sabres?

The Sabres have a bunch of questions that need to at least begin to be addressed this offseason and next season. While everyone focuses on the draft and who is going to put the puck in the net for last year’s worst offensive team, many have forgotten that the Sabres are (once again) without a captain.

There are a couple basic things that I believe the organization should (or should not) do when considering who will be the next person to wear the “C”.

First (and most important) is that the next captain must come from in-house. The cons far outweigh the pros when it comes to naming a player who was just acquired as the captain. The most obvious issue is that it places undue pressure on the new player. No matter the age or experience of a player, when someone is traded to a new team, or signs with a new team as a free agent, they want to make a good first impression. On top of trying to fit in with new teammates and a new system on the ice, the player is faced with trying to acclimate to a new city off the ice. Throw in moving a family and all that comes with it into a new town and the player is juggling all he can handle.

Another concern is that naming a player that is new to the team as a captain is an indictment of the leadership qualities (or lack thereof) of your current roster. By giving the captaincy to a newly acquired player you’re basically telling the 23 guys on your roster, “I don’t think any of you are capable enough or ready enough to assume responsibility for this team.” Given the state of the Sabres’ roster, I’d advise against doing that. Continue reading

Trading Ehrhoff will be a risk-reward venture

If things weren’t frantic enough in the land of Sabres trade rumors, Christian Ehrhoff is now said to be on the block in what’s shaping up to be the biggest fire sale this side of the Florida Miami Marlins.

Ehrhoff has been a steady contributor on the blueline since he first signed and is easily Buffalo’s number one defenseman. While his contract goes forever, it’s at a very friendly cap hit that allows for quite a bit of maneuverability. Adding his on-ice exploits to such a friendly cap hit makes for an attractive trade chip for a number of competitors.

The issue, however, is the Cap Recapture Clause that was included in the new CBA after last year’s lockout. It was built to penalize teams who signed massive, cap circumventing contracts under the previous CBA. It’s a very complicated rule that is difficult to explain but if you read this thread from HF Boards (h/t Scott Michalak @scottyMCSS) on how Ehrhoff’s recapture penalty works you’ll know all you need on how hard the Sabres will be hit if he’s traded.

As you may notice, Buffalo gets hammered if they trade Ehrhoff and he retires prior to the end of his deal. This is particularly true if Ehrhoff chooses to retire after the 2018-19 season ($5M cap penalty) or 2019-20 season ($10M cap penalty). That’s a lot of scratch to sacrifice. It also makes trading him nearly prohibitive. Continue reading

Questions linger with crowded house on blueline

Ever since Doug Janik and Rory Fitzpatrick took the ice for game seven of the 2006 Eastern Conference Finals, defensive depth has been a focal point of how the Buffalo Sabres have been built.

The 2013-14 season will be no exception as the Sabres are heading to training camp with ten (TEN!) defensemen who will be battling for a spot on Buffalo’s NHL roster. For a team who struggled to find consistency on the back end last season, the plethora of rear guards on the roster isn’t a bad thing.

Of the ten defensemen I count as NHL ready, a few have all but sealed their spot on the roster entering the season. Christian Ehrhoff, Tyler Myers and Mike Weber are all a sure thing to have an NHL job this season and newly acquired Henrik Tallinder should join them.

Where things get interesting is filling out the remaining three or four spots for the team. It’s particularly fascinating when you consider Rasmus Ristolainen as one of the players jockeying for a spot. Continue reading

Grading the Sabres: 2013 report card, Part II

The defensemen and goaltenders get to share the spotlight in the second portion of my Sabres season grades. As always, your thoughts are welcome in the comments section.

Tyler Myers: Oh, where to begin? Myers was downright bad to begin the year before leveling out at midseason. He looked out of shape and lost most of the time and his play suffered for it. Considering the salary he is being paid, his contributions are especially frightening. Before his injury he was only okay and you could certainly say the defensive play was better without him. Yikes. Grade: C-

Christian Ehrhoff: Ehrhoff finished off another strong year in which he remained Buffalo’s best defenseman. He hasn’t blown up the scoresheet like some expected, but his powerplay time has changed from the Sedins to any number of players in blue and gold. Still, there’s a lot to like about Ehrhoff and he will be around for a long time. Grade: A-

Andrej Sekera: Everyone’s favorite whipping boy, Sekera actually wasn’t bad at all this season. He quietly goes about his business and plays steady hockey. I’m not a huge fan of his but I can’t deny that he has been a solid contributor in his own end all year. Grade: B

Mike Weber: Steve Ott’s arrival may just be the best thing for Weber’s career you could ask for. Weber is beginning to evolve into a leader, plays a gritty nasty game that is almost entirely absent on this roster. His puck skills aren’t very good, but as a defender there is a lot to like. He may still be on the rise for this squad. Grade: B- Continue reading

Grading the Sabres: Defensemen part one

My report card for the Sabres defensemen will be split into two five-man groups. Alexander Sulzer and Mike Weber will be in the second group with a trio of prospects. The first group will be the top five, if you will.

Tyler Myers – B

Overall, it was a decent season for the big man. There were times that he still looked lost defensively, but it was fairly obvious that he is a big part of Buffalo’s transition game. His absence often crippled Buffalo’s ability to move the puck and enter the zone.

I actually think there were some stretches that Myers was especially effective in his own zone, showing that two-way game that so many people are waiting to see develop. A healthy Tyler Myers is important for the Sabres. However, based on the last two years, a proper offseason program is what is important for Myers.

Christian Ehrhoff – A

When the Sabres signed Ehrhoff, I was ecstatic. Even though he didn’t go out and score goals like Bobby Orr, Ehrhoff was a very effective member of the Sabres blueline. In fact, he was their most consistent defenseman for the entire year.

While his goal scoring was down, he led all Buffalo defensemen in points, which is what he was brought here to do. What was unexpected was how great he was defensively. If the coaching staff would build their powerplay to better suit Ehrhoff, I think you would see his numbers increase. Continue reading

Ruff shifts Ehrhoff to tweak stagnant power play

Moving Christian Ehrhoff within the Sabres power play is expected to bring results

The Buffalo Sabres are 5-2, sit one point out of the Northeast Division lead and have a sound game when it comes to road contests. Yet, something is broken.

Buffalo’s power play has become a burden for a team that has had an otherwise sparkling start. Many Chicken Little fans are bemoaning the two lackluster home efforts, but it is the power play that seems to carry the greatest cause for concern. There is reason to worry about the 0-2 home record, both games were practically carbon copies of themselves and it is an eerie reminder of the 0-6-1 home start the Sabres had last season. It just isn’t paramount at this point in time.

After arriving home from Europe with a power play efficiency just south of 40%, it seemed as if the addition of Christian Ehrhoff and additional offensive depth was already paying off. The Sabres went 3-for-8 on their power plays in Europe; they are 1-for-17 since.  Will Hunting could tell you those are bad numbers. Continue reading

Buffalo Sabres season preview: The Blueline

This is part two of a series previewing the Buffalo Sabres 2011-12 season. Part two focuses on the defense. Read part one here.

A handful of factors aided Ryan Miller in his Vezina winning season. Tyler Myers’ emergence as a force and his chemistry with Henrik Tallinder created a true lockdown pairing. In addition, Toni Lydman and Steve Montador offered a sound veteran presence to the bottom four that included Chris Butler, Craig Rivet and Andrej Sekera. Add Miller’s exceptional play over the course of the season and it is fairly obvious why he and the Sabres were so successful.

The 2010-11 season was a down season for the Sabres blueline as a whole. The departure of Tallinder and Lydman were filled by Jordan Leopold, Shaone Morrisonn and Mike Weber. An overall average season was capped with the departure of Butler (trade), Montador (trade/UFA) and Rivet (waived). Due, in part, to Terry Pegula’s deep pockets, the Sabres blueline underwent a major overhaul as they enter the 2011-12 season. Continue reading

Breaking down the Sabres’ signings

For the first time in my 25 years on Earth, the Buffalo Sabres were major players in the NHL free agent market. In fact, the Blue & Gold had the highest payroll in the NHL when the dust had settled.

The week prior to July 1 saw Darcy Regier poach Robyn Regehr, a second-round pick and Ales Kotalik (a charity pick-up) from the Calgary Flames for Chris Butler and Paul Byron. Point Regier. What is more impressive is that Buffalo was attractive enough for Regehr to waive his no movement clause for.

Regier then snagged Christian Ehrhoff’s negotiating rights and managed to ink him to a massive deal prior to the UFA market opening up. Ehrhoff, has put up incredible numbers in Vancouver. He is a career minus in the playoffs. However, I blame his -13 this year – which put him deep into the minus numbers – on the shoulder injury that limited him in the later rounds.

Regehr looks a hell of a lot like Shrek, he also tosses people around like an angry orge. Sort of a fitting nickname, no? I don’t know if he will be reunited with Jordan Leopold, or if he will be paired with Tyler Myers to create a monstrous shut-down pairing. Ehrhoff could certainly compliment Myers well, and it may be a better fit considering both he and Leopold are quite offensively minded. Nevertheless, they make the blue line significantly stronger.

Regier went out and made two major additions to his blue line before the clock struck noon on Friday. It was expected that the Sabres would make a major push for Brad Richards. They never did, partially because the New York Rangers were given the final right to match an offer for Richards and because they may have lost out on Ville Leino.

Buffalo’s only UFA signing, thus far, has been Leino. Despite only signing one guy, Regier went out and got a big fish. Leino is a very talented forward, capable of playing all three forward positions who is a major playoff performer. He put a dagger in Buffalo’s series lead on Philly and has been on my personal radar since his first year with Detroit in 2008-09. They may have overpaid, but if he flourishes at pivot there is no reason to say they overpaid.

There is plenty of time left in free agency, despite the current financial restraints I don’t think Regier is done signing players. Especially if they are to make a trade or two, as I suspect.

Looking at the signings Buffalo has made thus far, including re-signing Nathan Gerbe, Cody McCormick and Mike Weber, they have made major improvements to the roster.

Between Shrek and The Hoff the Sabres’ top four is about six times better than they were last year. Just on paper, think about it. Tyler Myers, Jordan Leopold, Steve Montador and Shaone Morrison/Andrej Sekera versus Myers, Leopold, The Hoff and Shrek. It is sort of like buying a Chrysler 300 because it looks like a Phantom.

The Sabres’ back end will be better, no doubt. By association Ryan Miller should be better. It is the forwards, particularly the top six who will be interesting to watch.

Leino and Derek Roy are not exactly a deadly one-two punch at center. I still think Darcy has a trade up his sleeve. If Leino clicks and Roy continues that point-per-game clip from 2010-11 then there may be hope. The wingers are obviously set, Jochen Hecht or Brad Boyes will likely settle on to the third line. Tyler Ennis, Drew Stafford, Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek all have homes with Buffalo’s top two centers. Now they just need to produce.

Surely there will be some shuffling amongst the bottom six forwards. I think their help, or reinforcements, are still on the to-do list for Darcy. I have a few thoughts on who may fit well in that role, even as a number one center depending on a potential trade.

Until Regier knows his cap number moving forward, not much else will be done by the Sabres.

Don’t hassle the Hoff – Sabres ink Ehrhoff

No official statement has been made, but Nick Kypreos or Sportsnet and Bob McKenzie of TSN have both stated that the Sabres have reached an agreement with defenseman Christian Ehrhoff. Give credit to Joe over at Buffalo Wins for being the first on the scene. UPDATE: McKenzie just tweeted the deal is done and the terms are looking like 10 years for $40 million. (6:15 PM)

Kypreos said the deal should fall between $5 and $5.5 million per season. That is surprising news considering that is probably how much the Islanders offer was for. There is still no confirmation of the signing, once that comes down I will be sure to update.