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JW - Poor Asset Management with Ehrhoff

The Buffalo Sabres buyout of Christian Ehrhoff has come as a shock to many fans, and with good reason.  It would appear that the Sabres just gave away one of their most valuable assets because of a fear of a doomsday scenario that might never come, and might never matter.

Color me confused.  The Buffalo Sabres have decided to part ways with their best defensemen because he “didn’t want to be here.”  Be careful with that one.  I’m sure there are plenty of good players that would like things to be different.  This team isn’t very good and Christian Ehrhoff, like so many other veterans around the league likely would be, is frustrated by that.  Now he’ll get the chance to play elsewhere and you’ll see him scooped up quickly by a good team.

So let’s try to make sense of it, shall we?

Ehrhoff is good.  This is not a debatable point.  If your take on this matter involves the word “soft” or something like that…just scroll down to the comments and leave your blast down there.  On a terrible team, he’s the best puck-possession defenseman that they have.  He’s one of the better possession defensemen in the league.  He didn’t lead the Sabres because they’re bad, he led because he’s good.

On our airwaves this story will likely turn into Ehrhoff being some sort of malcontent or a guy that would be bad for the culture of the room.  I don’t believe this and we shouldn’t let it spiral into something that it’s not.  “Doesn’t want to be here” means…”is likely fine here but it’s really a terrible time so he’d rather play hockey somewhere else.”

“Doesn’t want to be here” is a way to personalize a move to your fans.  You make it seem like the player has rejected…us.

You have to chuckle as you hear about something being bad for the room, as they continue to remove the good players from it.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in to stink for a top 2 pick next season, but don’t tell me that having world class players in the room, that want to win, is a bad thing.

That’s how Ryan Miller felt.  Thomas Vanek too.  It’d be hard to blame a player that is good enough to make a difference for a good team for feeling this way.

So the Sabres likely sought a trade, right?  No partners?  No way.  The Sabres could have sent Christian Ehrhoff to the highest bidder and reaped a pretty serious reward.  He’s a top 4, arguably top 2 defenseman that can log 25+ minutes a night.  When he’s on the ice, your team is better.

So what do you do?


Ehrhoff wanted out, so Murray wanted to trade him.  Ok.  A big part of the GM position is asset management.  The buyout of Ehrhoff is absolutely terrible asset management.  If they bought him out because they fear the cap recapture penalty that could hit them, it’s a point that you can easily defend.  I just don’t know why you would.

Why are Miller and Vanek any different than Ehrhoff?  Those two were going to leave town, so the Sabres made a decision to get whatever they could for them.

“What if Miller wins five Vezinas?”
“What if Vanek scores 50 for the Islanders?”

Who cares?  You make the move to get better.  You protect your assets and you get what you can for them.

“What if Ehrhoff retires in one specific season and you get hit with a huge cap recapture penalty?”

If Christian Ehrhoff retires in the final year of his contract the Sabres would be hit with a 10 million dollar cap penalty.  That sounds really harsh right?  How much should the current GM worry about it though?

If Tim Murray is the GM 7 years from now, he’s already been a success and he’s likely laid out plans to take on this potential hit.  The cap will be higher, and there are plenty of teams that are able to operate with a 10 million dollar cushion.  This team is being built through the draft too.  Free agency isn’t likely to be something that breaks their bank going forward.  There will be moves to supplement the roster that add to the payroll, but with all these picks come entry level contracts and the ability to then sign players long term while they’re on their RFA deals.

I’m not sure that worrying about a retirement in one specific year is worth it, and the penalty for it is actually a lot more manageable than it sounds.  Let’s say the hit is 10 million dollars…but the Sabres were able to get another prospect and a 1st round pick next year for it?

Maybe that’s worth it.  It’s not even a guarantee that it’d hit in one year.  It might be 5 per year over 2 years.  Either way we’re talking about 2020 and beyond.

Can you trade a guy knowing that the cap recapture penalty is coming for you (maybe) down the line?

Vancouver did.

The Canucks have an 8.5 million dollar cap recapture hanging on Luongo, but they roll the dice on it.  I’d have rolled the dice.

You can also….


He’s good.  He’s an employee that wishes things were different.  So does every player on the team.  You suck it up and deal with it.  You tell Ehrhoff to deal with it.  In 2 years the Sabres are going to be good and fun again.  Ehrhoff will be able to play well into what many consider old age in hockey.

So he’s unhappy for a while?  Works for me, he can join the club.

I’m not upset that Christian Ehrhoff is gone.  I was almost expecting to hear that the Sabres moved someone off the roster this weekend.  I’m only upset at poor asset management.  The Sabres decided to forego a guaranteed return, for fear of a potential cap recapture hit that might never factor in.

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