TOP-10 UFA COUNTDOWN: #7 - Christian Ehrhoff

Jeff Veillette
June 12 2015 09:00AM

This is a series counting down the top-10 pending UFAs. It will be posted across the Nation Network over the next month! Enjoy!

When Christian Ehrhoff signed a ten year contract with the Buffalo Sabres in June of 2011, a lot of people were puzzled, and a little annoyed. Why was the NHL allowing these long-term, front-loaded contracts? Why was a 28 year old signing one that he would theoretically be able to play through? Why, even with the scheme, did such a talented player take so little without testing the market, from a team he became part of just hours before?

Fast forward to today. This would theoretically be the end of year four, but the Sabres are about a year removed from buying out the middle-aged German. Not only that, but the Pittsburgh Penguins, his new team, feel inclined to go with other internal options, meaning Ehrhoff will suit up for his third team in as many years.

Track Record

Thanks to a string of three consecutive 40+ point seasons between 2008/09 and 2010/11, Ehrhoff is seen by many to be a reliable offensive presence from the point. So when Ehrhoff managed just 33 points in 79 games and his lowest even strength production rate in half a decade, it was of little surprise to see interest in him dry up.

This year, things trended back in the right direction, as he picked up three goals and eight assists in a little over 825 minutes at 5-on-5. This isn't a gigantic leap forward; in fact, an extra goal last year probably evens things out. But it was still something, and it made him one of Pittsburgh's most productive even strength defencemen with substansial minutes played.

That's about as far as the positives go, however. Despite being known as a relatively steady play-driver throughout his career, Ehrhoff had his first season with team-relative possesion numbers in the relatives, and spent very little time on Pittsburgh's powerplay and penalty kill. His 2:03 minutes per game on the powerplay were the lowest he's ever played since 2007/08, and a far cry from the three and a half he managed with the Sabres. This, combined with a string of head and upper body injuries that lead to him playing only seven games after January 28th, culminated in him picking up just fourteen points, his lowest total in eleven years. 

Needless to say, while he hasn't fallen off the cliff, this is a player coming into free agency at a career crossroads. It's hard to say whether he's hit a bump in the road, or is en route to his decline.

Future Performance

Ehrhoff's injuries make this one a gigantic wildcard. It's hard to bet against a guy whose worst years still put him in the upper half of the league, is capable of logging minutes on both sides of your special teams, can pass a puck like few others, and is generally capable of controlling the flow of the game.

On the other hand, we're talking about a player who suffered two confirmed concussions this year. You can blame 2013/14 on the Sabres being comically bad, and last year's production through the first half of the year on a lack of powerplay time and chemistry with new teammates, but traumatic head injuries have the potential to drastically change your ability to play the game. 

If he comes back healthy, it's safe to assume that a team will get a player who will pick up about 0.8 points per sixty even strength minutes, be able to play five combined minutes a night on the powerplay and penalty kill, and boost the possession of an average team by a percentage point or two while he's on the ice, at least for another year or two. But that's an extremely big if.

Contract Outlook

A healthy Christian Ehrhoff likely picks up his most lucrative per-year contract of his career. Johnny Boychuk (2015), Jay Bouwmeester (2014), and Tobias Enstrom (2012) are examples of middle-aged players who were retained by their existing teams in the $5.4-6 million range while putting up similar all around numbers, and sharing similar on-ice character traits. With that said, all three had a few years in hand when they signed, but that's off-set by the idea of hitting unrestricted free agency.

However, the risk factor and the surplus of high quality defencemen on the market this offseason screams a "put up or shut up" scenario for the soon to be 33-year old. His likely suitor will be a lower-tier team looking for an affordable potential asset to flip at the deadline if they exceed expectations; you know, like the Buffalo Sabres. Wouldn't that be something?

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Managing Editor of Hockey Content at the Nation Network. Just here so I'll get the opposite of fined. If you'd like to collaborate or simply have a question, email me at jeff@veillette.me
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#51 kgo
June 12 2015, 07:46PM
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I would give Erhoff 2 years max.....up to $6M a year, granted it doesn't prevent an eight million dollar Hamilton, or a Seabrook contract...

I'd rather Erhoff for 2 at $6Mish than Chara...

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#52 Zarny
June 12 2015, 07:50PM
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Randaman wrote:

@ Zarny,

Does #16 and Marincin qualify as a conversation starter with Wilson to acquire Burns?

Too little or too much?

Well, Yandle had 52 pts in 84 games (yep double checked it) and cost NYR a 1st, a 2nd, a top prospect in Anthony Duclair and John Moore.

Burns had 60 pts last year. Career year @ 30 y/o. Signed @ $5.67M for 2 more years. The 16th is a better first than TB's but you'll need a 2nd or 3rd rnd pick too.

The prospect/player depends on who SJ likes. Marincin might do it but they'll probably ask for Klefbom first. I would try to sell them on Schultz who is kind of a Burns-lite.

Assuming Burns is available.

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#53 Clyde
June 12 2015, 09:33PM
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Zarny wrote:

Well, Yandle had 52 pts in 84 games (yep double checked it) and cost NYR a 1st, a 2nd, a top prospect in Anthony Duclair and John Moore.

Burns had 60 pts last year. Career year @ 30 y/o. Signed @ $5.67M for 2 more years. The 16th is a better first than TB's but you'll need a 2nd or 3rd rnd pick too.

The prospect/player depends on who SJ likes. Marincin might do it but they'll probably ask for Klefbom first. I would try to sell them on Schultz who is kind of a Burns-lite.

Assuming Burns is available.

Burns is a huge right shooting def who can also play nasty at times. He's worth a lot more than Yandle. Marincin isn't physical and provides no offense. A team may take him as a throw in but nothing more. The Sharks will want quality potential and the Oilers only have 1 defenseman that fits that.

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#54 AJ88
June 12 2015, 09:47PM
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kgo wrote:

I would give Erhoff 2 years max.....up to $6M a year, granted it doesn't prevent an eight million dollar Hamilton, or a Seabrook contract...

I'd rather Erhoff for 2 at $6Mish than Chara...

I had to read this twice, Erhoff $6M a year?

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#55 Casey
June 12 2015, 10:16PM
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Ehrhoff would be a great vet for not just Klefbom and Nurse but for Leo the Hero. Draisatl has probably looked up to him before as they are both Germann.

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#56 kgo
June 12 2015, 10:46PM
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Zarny wrote:

Well, Yandle had 52 pts in 84 games (yep double checked it) and cost NYR a 1st, a 2nd, a top prospect in Anthony Duclair and John Moore.

Burns had 60 pts last year. Career year @ 30 y/o. Signed @ $5.67M for 2 more years. The 16th is a better first than TB's but you'll need a 2nd or 3rd rnd pick too.

The prospect/player depends on who SJ likes. Marincin might do it but they'll probably ask for Klefbom first. I would try to sell them on Schultz who is kind of a Burns-lite.

Assuming Burns is available.

schultz is Burns castrated...not Burns lite

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#57 Croat Rob
June 12 2015, 11:18PM
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You can probably get Ehrhoff for 2yr/$4M per - wouldn't it be beneficial to have him mentoring as a veteran defenseman? Also, it would be good to have a fellow German around the room with Draisaitl. Buyout Nikitin, play Purcell and hope he plays half decent to get a 3rd/4th rounder from an eastern conference team.

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#58 3rd Laraque From The Sun
June 13 2015, 07:38AM
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Consultant wrote:

The injury thing with Ehroff scares me.

How about Jay Bouwmeester? 5.4 cap hit, 4 years left on his deal seems a perfect transition period to Nurse and Klefbom. He can eat up a lot of minutes, and could perhaps be had for cheap (2nd rounder?) StL is looking for changes and money savings...

An article on NHL.com today says STL won't resign Jackman so JayBo looks to be staying. Jackman at 2.5-3 mil on a two year contract might be something PC looks at.

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#59 RealMcHockeyReturns
June 13 2015, 08:55AM
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crackerjack14 wrote:

Obviously Hamilton fits the bill, but the cost is just too great. The way I see it, EDM needs long term fit (5-7 yrs) on the right side and a short term fix on the left (2-3 yrs).

BOS may have to trade Chara to make room for Hamilton's contract. Chara would be a great mentor to Klefbom and Nurse. Next year he'd play on the top line and eventually be a 5/6 in his final year. What would I cost? a 2nd and a prosect?

Brent Burns could solve the longer term right side need. Big guy that loves to play for Mclellan. Maybe it would take the 16th?

Chara-Burns

Klefbom-Schultz

Ference(Nurse)-Fayne

Ummm you spend too much time at Fantasyland!

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#60 Chadallac1976
June 13 2015, 08:23PM
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Now this is a guy I can see coming back to Vancouver on a low cap hit 1 to 2 year deal. Maybe $2,000,000 to $3,000,000 per year tops. He was awesome as a Canuck, especially on the PP with the Sedins, and Edler who are still here. Trade Bieksa and Hamhuis for draft picks and sign a guy like Ehrhoff especially for the pp and I'd be happy with that. It'd be awesome.

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