By John Vogl
The competition for college free agents can be fierce, especially when they have the talent to become All-American defensemen. NHL clubs need to add special incentives to get deals done, which how the Sabres got Chad Ruhwedel.
The team signed the much-lauded D-man from UMass Lowell to a two-year contract today, and Ruhwedel will make his debut this afternoon against Philadelphia.
The promise of playing time lured Ruhwedel.
"It’s what you have to do to get the player signed now," Buffalo General Manager Darcy Regier said outside First Niagara Center. "You have to make a commitment to put him on your roster, and so you have to have a comfort level with them playing some games here. That’s really part of the package.
"My comfort level is good with him. He’s an older player and so he’s not someone just coming out of junior. He’s had a real good collegiate career and obviously has been recognized as a top defenseman in the country. We think he’ll be fine, and we’re excited to have him in the organization."
The contract incentives explain why Ruhwedel joined the Sabres over Amerks defenseman Alex Biega in the wake of Tyler Myers' season-ending broken bone in his leg.
The 22-year-old Ruhwedel recorded seven goals, 16 assists and a plus-16 rating in 41 games with UMass Lowell. He was named a first-team All American on Friday.
"He’s someone that our scouting staff identified fairly early on in this season," Regier said. "We followed him through the year and expressed an interest from the start of the year with his representative and just kind of stayed with it. It came down to a number of teams, but he decided to sign here."
Regier likes that Ruhwedel is a right-handed shot who joins an organization overflowing with lefties.
"We had such an imbalance of left-handed defensemen," Regier said. "In the game today, you really need a lefty and a righty playing together as much as possible. He’s a right-handed defenseman. I think he’ll be someone who will fit in well with our organization."
Meanwhile, another prospect, Mikhail Grigorenko, will soon be coming back to the organization. The 18-year-old played 22 games in Buffalo before being sent back to his junior team in Quebec. The club was eliminated in the playoffs, so Grigorenko can return.
"He’ll come back, and we’ll make a decision whether we’re going to play him here or we’ll play him in Rochester," said Regier, who added the decision will come in the next day or two. "We’ll wait for him to finish up up there with meetings with [Quebec coach] Patrick Roy and whatever they want to do, and then we’ll bring him back here."
taggedChad Ruhwedel | Mikhail Grigorenko