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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Buffalo Sabres: Christian Ehrhoff Clutch Performer?

Christian Ehrhoff isn't someone that quickly comes to mind when one thinks of playoff performers. Sometimes we have to take a closer look at the numbers to find the right answer. And that's what I'v done below.

Ehrhoff in 73 GPs in the playoffs has scored 34 Pts for a 46.575% rate of production. In 459 GPs in the regular season games, Ehrhoff scored 214 Pts which amounts to a 46.623% rate of production. The regular season vs the playoff rate of production differential is negligible then at a -0.05% (down in the playoffs).

Based on the numbers then, Ehrhoff certainly doesn't disappear during the playoffs. Conversely, the analysis also doesn't show any dramatic 'rise to the occasion' type history either. If we look at year over year, he has been pretty much up and down, some years a playoff uptick and others not so much:

Change in RS vs PO Production
+37% San Jose Sharks 2005-06
-22% San Jose Sharks 2006-07
+21% San Jose Sharks 2007-08
-55% San Jose Sharks 2008-09
+3% Vancouver Canucks 2009-10 
-11% Vancouver Canucks 2010-11 
-4% average (of the averages from the last six years)       

Perhaps whats most interesting is that he has switched teams after the season in which his playoff production rate vs regular season production rate took the biggest dip for that team. After the 2008-09, San Jose GM Doug Wilson shipped him off to Vancouver as a salary dump, and just this year, Vancouver GM Mike Gillis chose not to re-sign Ehrhoff after determining the asking pricing to be rich for his liking.

I'm guessing that they probably would have tried harder to keep him if instead Ehrhoff had better playoff production during the years those ultimate decisions were made.

Buffalo Sabres
Left WingCapGPPTOICenterCapGPPTOIRight WingCapGPPTOI
Thomas Vanek$7.1807317:21Derek Roy$4.0353519:32Jason Pominville$5.3735218:09
Tyler Ennis$0.9824915:40Ville Leino$4.5815316:00Drew Stafford$4.0625216:32
Nathan Gerbe$1.4643113:19Jochen Hecht$3.5672917:04Brad Boyes$4.0835516:59
Cody McCormick$1.2812010:57Paul Gaustad$2.3813115:08Patrick Kaleta$0.951910:11
Matt Ellis$0.514010:02Luke Adam$0.919411:12
Left DefenseCapGPPTOIRight DefenseCapGPPTOIGoalCapGPWSV%
Jordan Leopold$3.0713523:19Christian Ehrhoff$4.0795023:59Ryan Miller$6.36634.916
Robyn Regehr$4.0791721:29Tyler Myers$1.3803722:27Jhonas Enroth$0.7149.907
Mike Weber$1.0581716:53Andrej Sekera$2.8762921:05
S. Morrisonn$2.162516:10
PosNot IncludedCapGPPTOI
FAles Kotalik$3.026612:22
FColin Stuart$0.53013:09
DMA Gragnani$0.69315:17
Salary Cap$64,300,000Tim Kennedy$0.2BUYOUT
Cap Payroll$65,770,357Roster Bonuses$0.6Total
Cap Space($1,470,357)23 players
minus Morrisonn$604,64322 players

Update 8/28/11:
Look at the salary cap situation league wide, there is only one team that materially over the cap. That team is Buffalo. The Sabres will most likely have to bury a contract in the minors or Europe to have any chance of getting back under. That player would be Alex Kotalik. But even then, BUF will still be over the cap by a almost $1.5M, as shown in the cap projection table above. Thus, somebody else will have to go too.   

Shaone Morrisonn
The most logical choice is Shaone MorrisonnHe has a year left on his contract at $2.1M and looks to be the odd man out in the top six blueline rotation in BUF. Buffalo could trade Morrisonn without taking on a contract and deploy one of their existing lower paid blueliners that has a cap hit of $600K or lower, allowing them to get under the cap.

Moving Morrisonn maybe easier said than done though. He is an expensive bottom pairing defenseman even for the teams thin on the blueline such as Ottawa, Minnesota, Florida and the New York Islanders. He he can't be traded and the team prefers not to bury another contract in the minors, BUF will be forced to trade another player.

Brad Boyes
Both Brad Boyes, and Jochen Hecht project as third line forwards, and thus are overpaid by a couple million each. Trading either of them for a forward with a cap hit of about half of either of theirs would also resolve BUF's cap problems.

What team would take on Boyes or Hecht at twice the cap hit vs the player they would give up. It would be the team most desperate for a top nine center: the Phoenix Coyotes. PHX has a plethora of top nine wingers who could be used in such a deal including Lee Stempniak and Taylor Pyatt both of whom have ties to Buffalo. Stempniak is from the great Buffalo area while Pyatt played for the Sabres in years past.

My guess would be that BUF would be more interested in dealing Boyes over Hecht since the latter is more effective as a third line center. Despite Boyes' shortcomings as a center, a team like PHX is in no place to look a gift horse in the mouth. If Maloney is targeting a legitimate NHL top nine forward who can play at least 15 minutes a game, I'd wager that they'll make due with Boyes as one of their top nine centers. 

Lee Stempniak
Not to mention, Hecht was one of the Buffalo players newly acquired, and fellow German, Christian Ehrhoff, consulted before making his decision to join the Sabres. It would be a little wierd if BUF management all of a sudden traded that player two months after he could have been the difference in BUF obtaining his buddy's services.  

As for which one of Stempniak or Pyatt would be going the other way, I would say the more likely one would be Stempniak. He makes twice as much as Pyatt and thus, the PHX payroll would be less impacted. In fact, considering how much PHX spent on salaries last season, if they were to increase that amount proportionately to the increase in the league cap, PHX likely has a couple million left in the budget to spend. Hence,

Lee Stempniak $1.9M for Brad Boyes $4.0M works both for PHX and BUF from a budget and cap perspective respectively.

In the event the Sabres are able to do the above deal and somehow ship out Shaone Morrisonn, BUF would have enough cap space to add the top remaining UFA defenseman to their blueline in Chris Campoli.