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Drew MacIntyre: What you Need to Know about Our New Goaltender

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While everyone was focused on the Ehrhoff and Leino sigings and the Regehr trade, the Sabres quietly added a very good netminder to the organization.

It went a bit under-reported, and most fans in Buffalo were left scratching their heads over not only over what MacIntyre brings to the crease, but why the organization brought him in. Some even jumped to the conclusion that it was a move that signaled an impending trade of Jhonas Enroth.

DrewMacIntyre1 300x225 Drew MacIntyre: What you Need to Know about Our New Goaltender

Our new Man Behind the Fiberglass/Kevlar Mask

MacIntyre will be in Rochester for the 2011-12 season (barring any injuries at HSBC), but just how good is this guy? To get more info on him, we headed straight over to The “The Goalie Guild,” an information and scouting destination for all things netminder related. Justin Goldman, member of the Pro Hockey Writers Association and contributor to NHL.com, is one of the best minds to pick when it comes to what to expect from a anyone wearing a goaltender’s mask.

Goldman gave us a full profile on MacIntyre, and you’re going to like what he had to say. Take it away, Justin:

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The Ehrhoff Signing: a Vancouver Perspective

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“Don’t hassle the Ehrhoff.”

There’s your banner for the 300 level.

Fans in Buffalo were pleased and shocked when the Sabres traded for the rights to negotiate with and then signed Christian Ehrhoff – pleased because a player of his caliber decided to come to Buffalo, and shocked because a player of his caliber decided to come to Buffalo. He didn’t come cheap. From the Vancouver Sun:

Ehrhoff, 28, was seeking a huge raise on the $3.1 million he made in 2010-11 and Vancouver Canucks GM Gillis apparently couldn’t entice the German to accept Kevin Bieksa-type money of $4.6 million per season.

Ehrhoff was a mainstay on the Canucks’ No. 1 power-play unit and collected 50 points last season. He had 42 points in 2009-10, his first with Vancouver.

“Playing on this team is more important than individual compensation and that’s our expectation with everybody,” Gillis continued. “It will work with some and it may not work with others. If he [Ehrhoff] is unwilling to accept what we think is fair and allows us to be competitive, then we’ll move in a different direction.”

A player with Ehrhoff’s puck-moving and power-play ability should command north of $5 million.

Ehrhoff was thusly dealt away to the New York Islanders, who then failing to sign him, dealt him to Buffalo, where we now scoff at phrases such as “Bieksa-type money,” and even the surly Golisano-esque “Playing on this team is more important than individual compensation.”

PelleyEhrhoff 300x203 The Ehrhoff Signing: a Vancouver Perspective

The 'Hoff getting hassled. By a New Jersey Devil. Rod Pelly, you better stay on the bench the next time we see you.

In Buffalo, “should commend north of $5 million” translated into $10 million for Ehrhoff, along with a $8 million signing bonus, for the 2011-12 season. 2012-13 will award him $8 million, with another “signing bonus” $5 million. From there, he’ll make $4 million until the 2017-18 season, where he drops to $3 million, and then to $1 million through the 2018-19 to 2020-21 seasons. All told, that’s $53 million over ten seasons – but hey, if you do your “Pegula Math,” that averages out to $5.3 million per season, and with a cap hit of $4 million per.

Turns out, over the long, long, long run, the money is right where it should be. Right? How much can we really expect as a return on our dollar?

Here’s more from Vancouver, from the Sun’s Sports Blog, which at least touches on his past accomplishments:

Ehrhoff will be greatly missed for his dynamic offense. While the German-born defender wasn’t much of a shutdown guy, his mobility, offensive awareness, and his shot made him a threat to score from just about anywhere. Seriously, anywhere. Ehrhoff has a tendency to put himself out of position on occasional forays into the untold depths of the O-zone, but he also has a tendency to score beautiful goals from those same spots (and don’t you worry: all these clips have happy endings).

Ladies and gentlemen: let every goal Christian Ehrhoff scored last season be his swansong.

Bang on the link above, to check out video of all of Ehrhoff’s goals from last season (though it may take you a little while to watch all 14 of them).

We’ll close with some quips from “Lighthouse Hockey,” who brings some perspective from Ehrhoff’s home in Long Island for all of 20 hours (and also adds some more insight into the Sabres current cap crisis):

Ten years, huh? TEN years for a defenseman! Here that team goes again. They never learned from that Alexei Yashin deal and they never learned from that Rick DiPietro deal.

‘Cause here those crazy Islanders go again, with a 10-year contract — to a non-star defenseman, no less. And they’re paying him EIGHTEEN MILLION in just the first two seasons alone.

Now granted, it tails off in the final four years to lessen the cap hit and dance around the salary cap (which all NHL teams should do, if they are in the blessed club that can get away with it).

Wait … what’s that, you say? …

You say the contract are actually between the Buffalo Sabres and Christian Ehrhoff…?

Fantastic deal then. What moves! Such guts and commitment to winning! You can tell this franchise really cares!

Boy, they’re really doing some great things in Buffalo, what with adding Ville Leino for six years at $4.5 million per to a collection that already includes Tomas Vanek for an eternity at over $7 million annually, and Jason Pominville at $5.3 million annually with a no-trade clause(!), to go with $6.25 million for the star goalie, and the $4 million still left on the contract for that 17-goal scorer who scored 40 goals that one time, long before they spent a draft pick to add him.

Now that is what I call putting your money where your mouth is, in all the right pl… well in some places, anyway.

Why, that franchise is so committed to winning, they even brought back Ales Kotalik and his $3 million salary — never mind that he hasn’t performed like an NHLer in three seasons and has been rejected by every team from Alberta to Manhattan. It’s just great to see such commitment and dedication in Buffalo.

Money, money, money. All the dollar bills in the world won’t make a lick of difference if these signings help bring a Stanley Cup to Buffalo. And that’s where most of the criticism tails off.

Yes, the Sabres have over-paid on contracts, but that is not unusual for NHL teams in this age that are aiming to be more than just competitive. The Sabres “only reason for existence is to win a Stanley Cup,” as every Sabres fan knows very well by now. Let Regier toss his Pegula Bucks around.  Let the green fall where it may.

And let Lord Stanley fall right in our laps.

That’s the only thing that matters to us now.

Go Sabres.

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Have the Sabres Become the new New York Rangers?

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I’ll give you a moment to wipe the spit-take off of your face.

Now that the Buffalo Sabres have become big time spenders in order to become big time contenders, the perception of this team and its management is going to change. Sure, it’s not like anyone ever has anything nice to say about the Queen City anyway, but get yourselves ready to hear “You guys are trying to buy a Cup, so laaaame” all over the internet.

new york rangers and buffalo sabres new era hats1 300x227 Have the Sabres Become the new New York Rangers?

This image is just plain creepy.

Frankly, the teams now bear a lot of similarities. Both now have a young core that was weaned from the draft, and both have over-spent to hopefully bolster their lineups on July 1st.

In order to assess how Sabres fans feel about this troubling comparison, I did some very scientific research: I consulted the Twitter. Here’s a few gems from the Sabres Nation Twit Poll:

  • @Sabrefreakydeak: Yes & No> Yes: TPegs flexing financial muscle. No: Nobody can make idiotic decision quite like the tandem of Dolan & Sather.
  • @MintyP69:  no, because the talent we bought into isn’t here because of our name & they are still in their prime
  • @MusingMaryAnn: Think of it as trying to catch up with the rest of the League who had a jump on us in the past. Spending money is new!
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The Leino Signing: Analysis from Philadelphia

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By now, the UFA buzz in your brains should have cleared up.

It’s officially Summer for hockey fans.  Time to sit back, re-set our rosters on NHL ’11, and hunker down for what should be a quiet offseason from here on out (barring a sudden trade, of course).

It’s also a good time to re-visit the signing of UFA Ville Leino. Sabres fans are not convinced that we landed the true #1 center that we all wanted in Brad Richards, but the Sabres did manage to sign the second-highest scoring UFA on the market. He can play center, and should provide a good one-two punch at center with Derek Roy. He’s a player that we’re to feel very excited about, so at least we’ve been told:

”We felt very strongly about Ville, and we felt that it was important to make sure we didn’t allow a quality player like him to slip by us,” (Darcy) Regier said. ”He was someone we identified early and moved him to the top of the list.”

leinohalak1 300x225 The Leino Signing: Analysis from Philadelphia

It's Blue and Gold for Ville for the next 6 years.

Well then, what about our counterparts in Philadelphia? What do they think about the Leino signing? I dropped in on a few Philadelphia blogs to find that out, and once I survived that journey into that Heart of Darkness, the intel I brought back with me was both good and bad.

From “Broad Street Hockey:”

Ville Leino was a freakin’ deal the last two years. The Flyers resurrected his career, he turned into quite the offensive power in the 2010 playoffs, and then had a decent 2011 season in which we learned that he’s as one-dimensional as one-dimensional players get in the NHL.

We knew he was going to get a raise, and the Flyers were apparently willing to pay him a four year, $12 million contract (as reported by Frank Seravalli). They weren’t going over that, and damn, we should be thankful for that.

The Buffalo Sabres signed him to an unbelievably obscene six year, $27 million contract today. The deal was announced by the team and the details were reported by TSN. It’s overpayment in every sense of the word, and it’s $1.5 million more per year than the Flyers were willing to dish out. Can’t blame him for going after the money at all… but holy crap, Ville Leino is not worth that much money.

We loved the guy during his time here and it was fun while it lasted. Not upset about losing him when all is said and done, though. Everybody is overpaying this year, but think of it this way: Jaromir Jagr for one year at $3.3 million, or Ville Leino at $4.5 million for the next six?

Uh-oh. I think we all knew we overpaid for this guy, but when I see the phrase “he’s as one-dimensional as one-dimensional players get in the NHL,” I start to feel that nagging anxiety of “buyer’s remorse.”

From Nick Derence of “The Bleacher Report:”

There is only so much cap space to go around. So when the Buffalo Sabres offered Ville Leino a six-year, $27mil contract, the Flyers were forced to say farewell to the dependable two-way forward. The Sabres hope that Leino will take up the same clutch goal scoring role for them that he did playing against them during these past playoffs.

Oh, he’s a “dependable two-way forward.” Good. I feel better about that now.

From Travis Hughes, of “SB Nation:

Leino, the 27-year old native of Finland, was toiling away in obscurity back in the 2009-10 season with the Detroit Red Wings. A late season trade brought him to the Philadelphia Flyers, and on a line with Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell, Leino turned into a hero in Philly’s run to the Stanley Cup Final.

The same chemistry with those two linemates wasn’t really there in the 2010-11 season, but Leino still managed to put up 19 goals and 34 assists in 81 games with the Flyers this past regular season. Flyers fans learned that he’s quite the one-dimensional player, as he started over 60 percent of his shifts in the offensive end of the ice, unable to be trusted with defensive zone minutes.

That’s why the money seems so high. Leino can score and has some of the best hands in the game, but that’s all he can do. Will it be worth it to the Sabres? It seems like any price is worth it to new owner Terry Pegula.

What? Which is it, Philly, good two-way or bad two-way? Stop jerkin’ us around! “One dimensional… 60%…unable…to be…trusted…” there’s that anxiety again.

buyersremorsepills 150x150 The Leino Signing: Analysis from Philadelphia

I need an rx. Is there a doctor in the house?

In order for Leino to be successful in Buffalo, he must produce – and not just in the offensive zone. The Sabres play a dogged “System” of hockey under Lindy Ruff, one that is focused on control of all three zones. While Leino has shown in the past that he can do this, he’s apparently shown more recently that he can be a liability in at least 40% of the ice surface. It won’t take long for this style of play to earn him a place in Ruff’s doghouse.

And then there goes that one-two punch.

If there is one stat that I have focused on since this surprise signing, however, it has been his playoff stats. 28 points in 37 career playoff games makes me feel much more confident and relaxed (even if one of those points was that goal he scored in the overtime of Game Six this past season, which pretty much ended our playoff hopes).

Another reassuring statistical pill is the fact that Leino put up a +14 over the regular season, despite the fact or opinion that he lost his two-way game somewhere in that stretch. That +14 would have been good enough for 2nd best on the Sabres, under the recently-departed Steve Montador’s +16. Drew Stafford was the forward closest in this category, at +13 (it’s pretty downhill from there).

It also helps to remember that bolstering the defense was one of the top priorities of Lindy Ruff in this offseason, and that was done in a huge way with the additions of Robyn Regehr and Christian Ehrhoff. Adding Leino (and subtracting Tim Connolly) feels more like a little bonus on top of that upgrade on the blueline.

We have to wait until October 7th until we find out which Leino emerges for Buffalo. There will be no excuses for him: he is just entering his physical prime and will have a larger role here than he did with the Flyers, who were overflowing with offensive talent last season.

Ville, here’s my advice for you:

  • Learn “The System.” Quickly.
  • Stay out of Lindy’s doghouse.
  • Help us get to the playoffs.
  • Go statistically crazy in the playoffs.
  • Help us win the Stanley Cup.
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So No Richards? That’s OK.

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Now that the Brad Richards frenzy is over, we can calmly and cooly look back at it. (I hope?)

The Sabres didn’t want to pay (or perhaps overpay depending on your opinion) the money it would’ve taken to sign Richards. They knew roughly what he would command in the market and had their backup plans.

So no Richards.

 So No Richards? Thats OK.

Do we really want Richards anyway? He already won a Cup so how hungry can he be for another? And he besmirched the Cup with a crustacean. Everyone knows the only food that should go in there is chicken wings.

A simple text and an innocuous one, it turned out. For those unfamiliar with the line, one of the princesses of the Pegula dynasty, Jessie Pegula, tweeted the words “so no richards”. The tweet was quickly deleted and @jlpegula said it was a butt tweet. Ok, sure. No one was buying it, but she did her best to cover for what could potentially have interfered with signing the biggest name free agent in this year’s market.

I for one thought it was cute and wouldn’t have really changed anything. She had inside information yet the deal wasn’t going through at that point.

But was the deal for Richards really ever going to go through at all? After the smoke cleared, another report came out that Pegula and Regier didn’t go up to Mississauga to visit Richards and his agent after all.

“We had plans to go up to Mississauga to meet with him,” Regier said. “As the day progressed and even with the number of clubs that were in line to speak with Newport Sports, we really got into a time pressure situation where we had to make a decision. We felt very strongly about Ville, and we felt that it was important to make sure we didn’t allow a quality player like him to slip by us.

It doesn’t sound like the Sabres really wanted Richards that badly after all. Actually sounds like they wanted Ville Leino more and they went for it.

 So No Richards? Thats OK.

Richards also risked taking the Cup for a ride on a jet ski. Well, actually that's pretty cool. After all, it had a life jacket on.

There are a couple things I take away from this.

One is that Richards is 31 and has concussion history. Richards had success in Tampa Bay, even winning a cup but that was with a stacked team. In the last 4 years with the Dallas Stars, his team has made the playoffs only one time, although they did make it to the 3rd round that year. Richards is called a “point a game” guy, but look at his plus-minus (click to embiggen):

Screen shot 300x216 So No Richards? Thats OK.

Only during one year, Tampa Bay’s Cup victory, did Richards post better than a +3. Darcy’s mamma didn’t raise no dummy. He knew the Sabres could spend their money much more effectively.

The other takeaway is this: the Sabres aren’t going to be completely honest with the public. Even in this amazing new Pegula era, we can’t expect complete transparency and honesty. They have to play games with other teams. Disinformation, confusion, misdirection… it’s the art of war and every other team is the Sabres enemy. If we can use tactics to get other teams to pay more for free agents, we’ll do it.

So the Sabres probably weren’t really even in the Richards race to begin with. Even if they were, Richards could join the growing line of expensive Rangers free agents that just haven’t panned out. He may even look a bit like (dare I say his name) Timmeh.

So no Richards?

Nope, and that’s just fine.

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