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"Sabres/Northeast Division Buzz"
Twitter @SabreHess • 28 Years Old • Male
Read any hockey articles on the internet from markets outside Buffalo and you'll notice a common trend. Yes the rest of the league has taken notice that Buffalo is improved from last year, but they also are quick to point out the folly of the Sabres new-found spending prowess. I'd like to debunk that myth right here and now.

Let's get the 800lb gorrilla in the room out of the way first, Christian Ehrhoff. Ehrhoff signed a 10yr, 40$million dollar contract with an annual cap hit of 4$mil dollars. Last year the Vancouver Canucks won the Presidents trophy and went to the cup final. Ehrhoff was 2nd on the team in time on ice per game, and finished tied for 4th on the team in scoring behind the Swedish twins and Kessler. Leaguewide Ehrhoff ranked tied for 7th in points by a defenceman and was in the top 25 in ice time. Keith Yandle and Lubomir Visnovsky were the only two defenceman to produce more points than Ehrhoff and have a higher ATOI per game. Yandle just signed a multi-year contract with Phoenix with a 5.25$mil annual cap hit, and Visnovsky's cap hit is 5.6$mil. I'd say that Ehrhoff is comparable to these two players and the Sabres have him at a much friendlier cap hit. How about the two players that Ehrhoff finished tied in scoring with? Those would be Dan Boyle and Chris Letang. Boyle's cap hit is an astronomical 6.667$mil per year, and Letang's is at 3.5$mil. Of the 4 aforementioned players only Letang has a lower cap hit, and only by 500$k. Seems reasonable to me.

The other gripe people have with Ehrhoff's deal is the term. Okay, when you attempt to sign a star player you have to give up one of two things: money or years. Ehrhoff is not Crosby, so the Sabres didn't have to budge on both, they only had to concede one and i think they made the right choice by giving him the years. He is 29 years old and will be just shy of 40 when the contract ends. Could he play that long? Yes, especially since he's a defenceman and we've seen that the last few years but ultimately it is unlikely that he will finish out the contract. However, given the rules of the CBA, since his contract was signed prior to him turning age 35 he can retire and his contract will not count against the Salary Cap. No harm no foul right? So Ehrhoff plays till he's 36 and then retires and Pegula pays him a few million to improve his golf game. Additionally, each year that the salary cap goes up, it makes his 4$mil hit seem lower and lower. By the time he's in his mid thirties he may be looked at as an affordable veteran that can be traded off if the Sabres are out of contention. In no way do i see this deal as being anything but a home run.

Ok that leaves us Ville Leino. Leino's value is much harder to quantify than Ehrhoff's because Leino is being paid somewhat on potential. He only truly has 1 full year of NHL experience and Buffalo is expecting him to improve upon his totals. If he doesn't, and continues to put up numbers similar to last year (53 points) then his 4.5$mil cap hit will seem like an overpayment. However given that he is only 27years old and will be under contract in his prime years (27yrs old to 33yrs) it is not a giant leap of faith to assume he will get better.

Ville is a playmaking winger (though the Sabres plan to move him to center) so let's see some comparable contracts. Ales Hemsky has a 4.1$mil cap hit, Loui Eriksson has a 4.25$mil cap hit, and Alex Tanguay has a 3.5$mil cap hit. Leino is costlier than all 3 of them. Hemsky is never healthy and Tanguay is making less because of his age, but either way Leino is going to be expected to put up similar or better numbers than the aforementioned players and i see him fully capable of doing so. The Sabres are hedging their bets that he will as well, and I fully agree with that decision. I'm sure that part of the reason Pegula gave Regier the green light to pay Leino that money is because in doing their due diligence on the pulse of the league, they felt that if they didn't pay him 4.5$mil he was going to get it elsewhere anyway.

Now in terms of fit, i think Ehrhoff and Leino both fill a need for this team. No one is going to argue the need for Ehrhoff (and Regehr) after watching the Philly debacle. However Leino is a bit more interesting. The Sabres are pretty stacked at wing, but Derek Roy aside, this team is devoid of pure playmakers. Any time you can add someone with Ville's ice vision you have to do it. They couldn't land a big time playmaking center, so they went out and got a playmaking winger. I think he'll fit in here fine, regardless of what position they decide to play him at.

In addition to the free agents the Sabres have a core of players in Vanek, Roy, Pominville, Myers, Weber, Sekera, Ennis, Gerbe, Gaustad, Miller and more that have come up through their own system. With guys like Foligno, Kassian, McNabb, Brennan, Adam, and Enroth on the way, the Sabres do not appear to be deviating from the plan to build from within. Just because Pegula has a lot of money doesn't mean they will wantonly spend and try to put together a late 90's Rangers lineup. Instead they will promote players from within their system and fill the gaps with free agents. Seems sensible enough.

Most people are probably griping because their own teams didn't have the green light to go ahead and be as aggressive as Buffalo was in signing Ehrhoff and Leino. Being as objective as I possibly can i just can't knock the Sabres for their signings this off-season, especially with 15$million coming off the books at the end of the 2011/12 season. They went out and made the team better, and managed to do it with fiscal responsibility. So have we spent our money wisely? I say yes. It could be worse, we could have signed Connolly to a 4.75$mil cap hit...now that would be crazy!

**Follow me on twitter @SabreHess**
Filed Under:   Buffalo   Sabres   Ehrhoff   Leino   Stafford  
August 4, 2011 2:01 PM ET | Delete
Id rather have Connolly at 4.75 for 2 years then Leino at 4.5 for 6 years. Connolly is a stop gap in Toronto. Ehroff is a good addition at 4 mil a season but 10 years is rough. Yes it would be great if he retires early but he won'y baring injury. He took the pay day in Buffalo strictly for a pay day. He will cash those 4 mil a year cheques till hes 40.
August 4, 2011 2:32 PM ET | Delete
August 4, 2011 2:42 PM ET | Delete
He wont be receiving $4 million checks till he is 40... he will be receiving $1 million checks for his last 2 or 3 years... the $$$ dwindle down the longer his contract runs. As for Connolly... you ultimately could be paying him $4.75 million for a half season. If we get the centers we need... we can move Leino back to wing. Versatile players are great.
August 4, 2011 2:50 PM ET | Delete
August 4, 2011 2:50 PM ET | Delete
August 4, 2011 2:51 PM ET | Delete
Not sure how you can compare these Eriksson and Leino. Leino has had one good season, and the rule is you don't pay a player based on potential. Its Lose-Lose. If they do become that player you want, you are paying them the salary they deserve, so you haven't won anything, you lost because you didnt get them for better than average value. If they dont become that player, you are seriously overpaying them, so you lose. Shoulda been signed to under 3.5 per
August 4, 2011 2:53 PM ET | Delete
As usual, people don't read and comprehend.
August 4, 2011 2:54 PM ET | Delete
Message Posted
August 4, 2011 2:57 PM ET | Delete
Leino had 11 offers on the table. We wouldn't have gotten him for 3.5. If you comprehended the blog, it states that If the Sabres didn't pay him, someone else would.
August 4, 2011 2:59 PM ET | Delete
Lol, so what you're saying is, if a team offered him 6M per, then offering 6.5 isn't bad because another team was also going to overpay? Maybe you think I missed the point, but please clarify, I want to understand (Not sarcasm)
August 4, 2011 3:08 PM ET | Delete
No because that would be a gross overpayment... we did overpay that is a fact. But based off of how the market was this offseason, the contract isn't excessive. Same reason Burke gave Connolly, a playmaking, fragile concussion plagued center who hasn't scored a goal in nearly 30 playoff games 4.75 mil a year
August 4, 2011 3:10 PM ET | Delete
August 4, 2011 3:11 PM ET | Delete
2 years vs 6 years.. completely different comparison, but nice try.. would love to go ointo more detail but cant in this blog, just cuts you off
August 4, 2011 3:15 PM ET | Delete
Not at all. Over paying a player is just that... over paying. We paid for potential from a proven performer. You paid for... well not really sure what.. market demand?
August 4, 2011 3:16 PM ET | Delete
PROVEN!? 1 year.. that is deeeeefinately not proof
August 4, 2011 3:18 PM ET | Delete
LeinoYear Team GP G A Pts /- 2008-09 DET 13 5 4 9 5 2009-10 DET 42 4 3 7 -10 2009-10 PHI 13 2 2 4 2 2010-11 PHI 81 19 34 53 14
August 4, 2011 3:19 PM ET | Delete
Tim Connolly Year Team GP G A PTS /- 2007-08 BUF 48 7 33 40 4 2008-09 BUF 48 18 29 47 12 2009-10 BUF 73 17 48 65 10 2010-11 BUF 68 13 29 42 -10
August 4, 2011 3:19 PM ET | Delete
How about those playoff stats?
August 4, 2011 3:23 PM ET | Delete
Connolly last 2 years 141GP 30G 77A 107PTS 0.76PPGLeino last 2 years 136GP 25G 39A 64PTS 0.47PPG(sorry other ones didnt line up)
August 4, 2011 3:25 PM ET | Delete
ONE SEASON IS PROOF OF NOTHING... Have you heard of Steve Mason? Jonathan Cheechoo? Andrew Raycroft? Marek Svatos?Regardless, have fun with the contract if he turns into a bust
August 4, 2011 3:27 PM ET | Delete
It was a reasonable 4.5 cap hit. They wouldn't have gone for 6.5 like you use. Poor example anyways. Someone else would have paid him 4.5. We don't care about the money. It's most likely a one shot spending spree. We have too much talent on the farm due up next season. I'll bet every Leaf fan wishes Pegula owned the Leafs instead.
August 4, 2011 3:29 PM ET | Delete
lol, ok, start making sense.. I Love Buffalo as a team, but don't like stupid arguments... Just because someone was willing to pay Gomez $7M per doesnt mean hes worth it.. stop saying that just because someone pais him makes it justified
August 4, 2011 3:31 PM ET | Delete
Second, why do we need a pegula? Yes I love the fact that he is a die hard hockey fan, but all he can do is provide the money, which our owners already do... Thirdly, All i meant was that you would have been better off spending the money elsewhere, or saving the $4.5M to take on a player at the deadline that would be of more value.. Leino will solve no problems of yours
August 4, 2011 3:36 PM ET | Delete
Good point Lafontaine16 about the contract structure, i was referring to the cap hit, but yes at the end of the deal he is only get paid a million bucks by the team. Something that makes the contract even more justifiable.
August 4, 2011 3:41 PM ET | Delete
yes...the sabres could've spent $4.5m elsewhere...they could have spent it on connolly...but, been through that movie...sabres DID WHAT THEY WANTED TO DO...and it feels pretty damn good...go worry about the omipotent brian burke and leaf nation...you're expending too much energy worrying about a rival team (or, in other words, trolling)
August 4, 2011 3:45 PM ET | Delete
We spent a little too much money on a guy who may be entering his prime, his stats are on the rise, even if they were dismal a couple years ago. You spent too much money on a player who is clearly on the decline, even if his stats were not dismal a couple of years ago. You don't like bad arguments, and I don't like exhausted ones. Let's move on, shall we?
August 4, 2011 3:47 PM ET | Delete
By the way,SabreHess, nice read again. I've come to look forward to these blogs you do.
August 4, 2011 4:08 PM ET | Delete
There really was no one else out there to spend the 4.5 on. No one. I think Leino will be a big improvement on this team. Thanks boos and jdoubles. If your replies can't get through thick heads, no ones will. I mean, give the guy a chance to play a game before knocking him. Grrrrr
August 4, 2011 4:57 PM ET | Delete
I wasn't targetting spending money on Leino, I was targetting his logic for it.. He made no good points.. The good points are, that It cost you nothing but salary, you had a position to fill immediately, and in a few years 4.5M may not be all that much.... That being said there are many potbential negatives that I wanted him to acknowledge and he was incapable.. I am a big fan of the sabres but the move worries me
August 4, 2011 8:31 PM ET | Delete
I love Lieno as a Flyers fan. I would have kept him on the team. but he is not currently worth over 3M. He also has a bad hip, hopefully the surgury has done him well. I wish him all the best. There is a reason the Flyers didn't make the same offer and it had little to do with cap restraints. I, don't see him fullfilling the contract but I hope him all the best. BTW nice call on not keeping Connolly for that terrible contract!
August 4, 2011 8:47 PM ET | Delete
The length of the Ehrhoff contract is worrying, but justifiable. Regier was a great pickup. Leino IS the wild card and let's hope he turns out to be an ace rather than a 6 or a 7. One thing: if you EVER call Derek Roy a pure playmaker again, I'll probably have to report you for BLATANT lying. Other than that though, great blog!
August 4, 2011 9:39 PM ET | Delete
Great article and great points as always, Hess. The comment section hits continue to go up and that probably means that someone is watching.
August 4, 2011 11:56 PM ET | Delete
I don't think a lot of you realise that we can buy out ehrhoffs conract and the cap penalty will be based off his remaining money owed on the contract, not the cap hit. So once he hits the last three years of his contract the buyout would be almost nothing.
August 5, 2011 12:08 AM ET | Delete
I prefer Cole over Leino and Connolly...:)))
August 5, 2011 8:56 AM ET | Delete
Of course you do because hes on your team :)... if you had connolly youd have preferred him, and same with leino
August 5, 2011 11:44 AM ET | Delete
All those words in this blog were unnecessary. Here I'll edit it for you. [delete all meaningless convoluted explanation/justification] [type two letters] NO [end blog]
August 5, 2011 5:25 PM ET | Delete
August 6, 2011 12:21 AM ET | Delete
Any way you slice it --- The Sabres will be better than the Leafs for the next 2 years that Connolly is under contract and the next 6 years that Leino is under contract --- And come on, a Toronto guy talking about rewarding crappy free agents ----- hmmmm Komi, Finger, Beauchemin, and overpaying Dionna (6.5 for Avery's sloppy seconds getter) and MacArthur --- 3.2 for Clarke's one good year
August 6, 2011 3:14 AM ET | Delete
Perhaps its an overpayment, perhaps not.But the fact is that you guys are better than last year, which sucks because I want the Rangers to make the playoffs.
August 6, 2011 2:13 PM ET | Delete
Sabres will be a ton better this year. Remember when they went on their torrid second half stretch Roy was out. You are essentially adding Roy, Lieno, Erhoff, Regher and Kassian to a team that was top 5 in the league in the second half. And Miller will actually be getting some rest this season. This is our first legit shot at a cup run since Briere and Drury left.
August 8, 2011 11:08 AM ET | Delete
August 10, 2011 8:32 AM ET | Delete
Keep writing Hess.
August 10, 2011 8:43 AM ET | Delete
Can't we wait... oh I don't know... until these guys have played 10 games out of their long-term deals before they get trashed for not being worth the dough? Most UFA's get overpaid. Some work out, some don't. 0% of them show their worth in July, August or September.
August 10, 2011 10:02 AM ET | Delete
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