It has been a whirlwind season for newly acquired Christian Ehrhoff, #10 of the Buffalo Sabres. Following last season with the Vancouver Canucks, which lead to a Game 7 defeat in the Stanley Cup Finals to the Boston Bruins, Ehrhoff was an Unrestricted Free Agent on July 1st. In the weeks prior to the opening of the Free Agent Period, Ehrhoff and the Canucks failed to come to a deal, due to Ehrhoffs high asking price. He desired to be paid more than fellow Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa at 5yr, $23 million. The Canucks did offer him that same deal, but when he turned it down, he was traded on June 28th, three days before the opening of free agency, to the New York Islanders for a 4th round pick. With the exclusive neogotiating rights to Ehrhoff, Islander’s GM Garth Snow imposed a one-day deadline to sign him. After refusing a deal deemed “well north” of the Canucks deal, the deadline was up. He was then traded to the Buffalo Sabres for a 4th round pick in 2012. Then, the evening before free agency, the Buffalo Sabres signed the German defenseman to a long term, front loaded contract. Ehrhoff signed a 10-year, $40 million deal with the Sabres. The contract pays him $18 million in the first two years, then $4 million annually from the third to sixth years, $3 million in the seventh and $1 million in the remaining three.Ehrhoff admitted having a desire for the freedom of unrestricted free agency, but was ultimately won over by the Sabres’ contract offer and quality as an organization able to compete for the Stanley Cup.
As a Buffalo Sabre, Ehrhoff was a top two defenseman, often playing with Tyler Myers throughout the season, until finding incredible chemistry with fellow countryman Alenxander Sulzer. Ehrhoff fit into Lindy Ruff’s system here in Buffalo, one where he wants the defensemen to occasionally lead the rush into the offensive zone. Ehrhoff is known as an offensive defenseman.He has strong skating ability, which allows him to quickly carry the puck up the ice, starting plays from his team’s defensive zone, as well as join offensive plays deep in the opposing team’s zone.He also possesses a hard shot, which earns him significant time on the power play. Everyone knows that this season was littered with injury, especially on the blue line. Our top two defensemen, Myers and Ehrhoff were in and out of the line-up for long stretches, and when they were gone, you could clearly see a difference. In 66 games this season, Ehrhoff acquired 5 goals and 27 assists for 32 points and a -2. Not great numbers, especially compared to his two years in Vancouver. However, with a full year playing alongside Myers and Regher, a full season under Lindy, and a full offseason in Buffalo to work on his chemistry and his game, we should see a significant spike in Ehrhoff’s stats come next season. And despite his front loaded contract, a $4 million cap hit does not break the bank. Expect Ehrhoff to anchor the blue line with Sulzer to start next season and expect to see him quarterbacking the powerplay from the point.