The rebuilding of the Sabres' defense continues. Christian Ehrhoff is coming to Buffalo.
The offensive defenseman, who turns 29 next week, has agreed to a contract with the Sabres one day after they acquired his rights from the Islanders. Ehrhoff set career highs with 37 assists and 50 points last season with Vancouver while scoring 14 goals for the second straight season.
“I was originally going to wait and see what was available on the free agent market,” Ehrhoff said today. “After the Sabres acquired my rights and I spoke with Terry Pegula and Darcy Regier, I did my due diligence on the team and I was very impressed. I called some former teammates and others in the NHL who also had great things to say and I was aware that Robyn Regehr had waived his no-trade clause in his contract this week to join the Sabres. My goal is to win the Stanley Cup, and after the offer I received from Buffalo, I believe this is the best place to make it happen.”
"He’s thrilled," Ehrhoff's agent, Rick Curran, told The News. "He was very impressed with the organization and the presentation that they made, obviously. Buffalo wasn’t a club that he had realized would be interested in him. When they did trade for his rights and express an interest, he was intrigued."
Terms of the deal are not yet known, though TSN.ca reports it is a 10-year contract worth $40 million.
"He’s a terrific skater," Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier said today. "He brings offense. He can contribute on the power play, moving the puck, getting up in the rush. Those are probably his strongest points, but he’s a terrific player."
Ehrhoff joins the team on the same day physical defenseman Robyn Regehr arrived in Buffalo. Regehr, acquired in a trade with Calgary on Saturday, has lined up often against Ehrhoff out west during the past seven seasons. Ehrhoff spent his first five years with San Jose before going to Vancouver two seasons ago.
"That’s a definite change and another sign of the change that’s happening here with this hockey team," Regehr said of the decision to get Ehrhoff. "He’s a very good skating defenseman. He’s not afraid to get up in the rush and be involved in the rush offensively. He’s got a really good shot. He’s dangerous on the power play, a good one-time shot."
The offensive-defensive package of Ehrhoff and Regehr joins a Buffalo defense corps that includes Tyler Myers, Jordan Leopold, Shaone Morrisonn and restricted free agents Mike Weber, Marc-Andre Gragnani and Andrej Sekera.
The Sabres, who sent a fourth-round pick to the Isles for the right to negotiate with Ehrhoff, had until Friday's noon start of free agency to sign him or he would have been free to talk to all 30 NHL clubs.
The Sabres had about $14.5 million in cap space to use when the market opened prior to the signing. That includes an additional $6.4 million that teams can spend in the summer, thanks to a rule that allows clubs to go 10 percent over the cap. They must be in compliance by opening night of the 2011-12 season.
If the TSN contract numbers are correct, that would still leave the Sabres with $10 million to spend when free agency starts.
The Sabres' defense struggled at times last season, partly because of inexperience. The addition of Ehrhoff and Regehr, who spent 11 seasons with the Flames, adds 18 years of NHL knowledge to the blue line.