The Pittsburgh Penguins got one of the top free agent defencemen on the market and didn't have to give up big money or term to get it done.
Numbers Game looks at the signing of Christian Ehrhoff.
The Penguins Get: D Christian Ehrhoff.
Ehrhoff, 31, was surprisingly bought out of his contract by the Buffalo Sabres and became one of the most appealing free agent defencemen on a thin market, yet decided to accept a one-year deal with a championship contender.
While Ehrhoff's possession numbers weren't great in Buffalo, that's no surprise playing for the worst team in the league, and Ehrhoff has consistently posted very strong relative possession numbers, so even though the Penguins may not be a possession powerhouse, they are a better team and have a supporting cast that should allow Ehrhoff to thrive. Since 2008-2009, he has 223 points, which ranks 13th among defencemen and he's averaged better than 23 minutes per game in each of the past four seasons.
In Pittsburgh, Ehrhoff effectively takes over for Matt Niskanen, which should include some power play time, but this will allow the Penguins to be a little more judicious as they bring in their young defencemen. Simon Despres is due to move into he lineup and both Olli Maatta and prospect Derrick Pouliot are coming off shoulder surgery, so having Ehrhoff, Paul Martin and Kris Letang gives them a core around which they can anchor their defence. This isn't to suggest that Ehrhoff is a saviour, but he's capable of handling top-pair minutes, so getting that calibre of defenceman without having to give up term or significant money is a virtual gift for the Penguins.
Additionally, signing for one year and $4-million, Ehrhoff sets himself up for another big contract next season, should he be so inclined.
From the Sabres' perspective, they already know that they aren't going to be good next year and, apparently, had concerns about Ehrhoff retiring before the end of his contract and the recapture penalties that would go with it. They're decidedly worse without Ehrhoff, but being worse when your team finishes 30th still means finishing 30th.
Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.