Most have lauded the Sabres organization over the past few days for recognizing they weren't going to land Brad Richards and immediately snatching the next best playmaker on the open market in Ville Leino. In terms of ability the Sabres are upgrading their forward corps by adding a solid two way player with soft hands, great vision, and proven playoff performance. However the Sabres biggest need is a top 6 center and they could be trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
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Leino is being paid big bucks (4.5mil cap hit) to provide the Sabres with that 1A or 1B center to go along with Derek Roy. Though Leino has primarily played the wing in the NHL the Sabres are rumored to be moving him back to his original position as he was a pivot in the Finish Elite League.
This has the potential to be a boom or bust move for Buffalo. If he moves to center, handles himself capably on face-offs, and gels with a couple of wingers in blue and gold he will earn every penny of that large payday. However, i watched Leino a lot in Philadelphia and during various stretches of time Leino had to fill in at center and he looked very much over-matched against an opponents top 6 centerman. In fact, one particular game Laviolette had to put him back to the wing in the second period and Andreas Nodl moved over to center and performed significantly better...earning him the center duties for a few more games until the Flyers returned to full strength.
Now this could be that Leino is so familiar with his role as a winger in the Flyers system and he needed more time to adjust than just a few games here and there. With Buffalo he'll get all of training camp, the pre-season and of course many many regular season games to get comfortable in the middle. Let's just hope he does....because Buffalo is paying him a lot of money and they are already overloaded on the wings. Leino does, however, create matchup problems of his own for the opponent when playing the wing as their are very few true playmaking wingers in this league ala Ales Hemsky or Loui Eriksson. This is why i still think there could be a trade in the works to bring in another center as a plan B and move a winger (Boyes, Hecht, Kaleta?) out to clear up room for Leino should he fail.
Quick note: Kudos to Regier for locking up Weber at a nice 950k for two more years. Solid physical blue-liner who should up his game even more having Robyn Regehr around for tutelage. Sabres D looks pretty stacked, and they still need to sign Reggie and Grags!
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