Terry Pegula said the Buffalo Sabres would be aggressive in free agency. After they acquired the rights to Christian Ehrhoff, one of the premier defensemen remaining on the marketplace, it became obvious the owner wasn’t kidding.
The Sabres sent a fourth-round pick in next year’s draft to the New York Islanders tonight just for the right to talk with Ehrhoff, who helped Vancouver reach the Stanley Cup finals. The pending unrestricted free agent was shipped earlier this week to the Isles, who were unable to sign him despite an offer reported to be for five years and more than $23 million.
Ehrhoff will be available to all 30 NHL teams at noon Friday if the Sabres fail to sign him before then.
The defenseman, who turns 29 next week, has back-to-back seasons with 14 goals. He recorded 36 assists and 50 points with the Canucks this year, both career highs.
"Getting the right players is key for your game plan," Pegula said Wednesday afternoon in Rochester after being introduced as owner of the Americans. "We’re going to be reasonably aggressive. We’ll be right in there with most of the other teams.
"Free agency started a long time ago for us. We’ve been working real hard. Obviously, I can’t come up with any names of players [due to tampering rules], but we’re going to do our best."
With teams successfully working to re-sign their free agents this week, the Sabres obviously felt they needed to strike before the market became even thinner.
"It seems we’re taking names off the board on a daily basis," Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier said at the Amerks news conference. "There’s still some good players out there, and we plan to be active."
Ehrhoff is a three-time German Olympian, including two stints with Sabres forward Jochen Hecht. The 6-foot-2, 203-pounder has played seven seasons in the NHL, spending his first five seasons with San Jose and the past two with Vancouver.
A shoulder injury suffered in the Western Conference final limited Ehrhoff during the Canucks’ Stanley Cup loss to Boston, but he finished the postseason with two goals and 12 points in 23 games.
The fourth-round pick in the 2001 draft has played 500 games, recording 53 goals and 173 assists. He has a plus-55 rating and 94 penalty minutes the past two seasons.