In an unexpected move, the Buffalo Sabres bought out their best defenseman Christian Ehrhoff. Their fear of a recapture penalty a long way down the road has altered the free agent landscape. While Anton Stralman and Dan Boyle are cursing the Sabres, other teams are probably licking their chops. Ehrhoff is an under-appreciated puck mover, who earned his $40 million pay check with the Sabres by passing pucks to the Sedins. His scoring totals were absolutely a product of the Swedes, his time in Buffalo revealed that he has the ability to take on a larger role, score and provide strong puck possession while handing tough minutes. Here is the Corsi % difference with teammates playing with and without him. The blue bar is linemates’ Corsi % with him minus corsi without (click to enlarge)
Ehrhoff ranked 13th among NHL defenseman in Relative Corsi in 2013-14 – a year the some have suggested he mailed in because he didn’t like losing every single game and playing with AHL-caliber teammates. He also added 17 even-strength points, the same number as Kings’ D-man Drew Doughty.
There is no doubt that Relative Corsi can be a tad misleading when the rest of the team is bad. Of course the Sabres were better when Ehrhoff was on ice than Jamie McBain or Mike Weber. However, his history of being a great possession player goes back for…pretty much ever.
In 2009-10, he was Vancouver’s No. 1 defenseman in Relative Corsi. According to Behindthenet.ca, he was +10.6 per 60 minutes. The next best was top D-man Kevin Bieksa at +8.0. If you go all the way back to 2008-09, he was still solid in Relative Corsi, ranking second to Dan Boyle on the Sharks (with only a -0.6 while playing a limited role).
The Sabres weren’t always the bottom feeders during Ehrhoff’s time, either. He played the top role on a team that barely missed the playoffs in 2011-12, posting a +3.9 per 60 Relative Corsi, only behind Andrej Sekera. There are many factors involved with Corsi, but when a player is, year after year after year, a top possession player, it probably is not a fluke.
Over the past few years, Ehrhoff has proven to be even more versatile than previously thought. In Buffalo, he played big time special teams minutes, including penalty kill. He was the Sabres’ No. 1 PK’er with 2.49 minutes per 60. The previous season, he was third in PK minutes.
So who wants ‘em? More like, who wouldn’t want a possession driving, even-strength scoring, special teams-capable, top four defenseman? More like: Who are the favorites?
Detroit - They are puck-mover friendly and always a team re-tooling. No Euro-phobia here.
Tampa Bay - They want to win the Cup next year. Filling out the D-core would help young, awesome forward group
Pittsburgh - Losing one of the better puck movers to FA, need a replacement
Vancouver - If they sign Miller, they’ll want to beef up D-core and “go for it”
Colorado - Had about 1 and 1/2 good defenseman this year. Needs someone who can skate with young stars
San Jose - Parted ways with Boyle. Ehrhoff is similar, only a lot younger.
Edmonton - Just drafted a kid (Draisaitl) who calls Ehrhoff a legend. Still need D-men and have money.
Arizona - They love their puck movers. Perfect veteran to fill out top four.
Washington - Short on possession defenseman, would like a second PP unit D-man
Dallas - Relied so heavily on one pair, could use a quality No. 3 and PP helper for Seguin/Benn machine
Nashville - Great defense core already, but a team that’s clearly trying to win now with Neal trade and attempts at Spezza
Minnesota - Can anyone play other than Suter? They could use a big-minute guy as a bridge to Dumba.
(Dark Horse Alert!) New York Islanders - Ehfhoff passed on NYI to come to Buffalo. They’ve got dough to spend and it would be a great way to get back at Buffalo