Buffalo Sabres: 3 Players Who Could Follow Christian Ehrhoff Overseas
The Buffalo Sabres are a young team on the verge of recreating their image. The NHL lockout has put a hold on their plans (for now), and has resulted in a couple of their players signing to play overseas. Who else could join Christian Ehrhoff and Tyler Ennis?
It's no surprise that Ehrhoff signed with Krefeld of the German Elite League. He played with them for three seasons before he started his NHL career, winning a German championship in 2003.
Ennis' decision was a little more unexpected. Since he re-signed with the Sabres on September 15, the one-way contract would normally require him to clear waivers before he's "sent down" to play in the AHL during the lockout.
However, according to Bill Meltzer of HockeyBuzz.com, since there is no CBA in place, the normal waiver rules wouldn't apply until a new agreement was reached. Ennis will also make much more money playing for SC Langnau in the Swiss Elite League than he would if he played for the Rochester Americans in the AHL.
We're going to look at three other players on the Sabres who could follow Ehrhoff's & Ennis' lead by signing overseas while the lockout drags on.
1. Jhonas Enroth
Everyone of the players we're about to discuss are European-born. That's not to say that a Canadian or American player wouldn't play in a foreign league, since Ennis is Canadian.
The fact is most European-born players have played in pro leagues in their home countries before and after being drafted in the NHL. For a lot of them, the lockout offers a chance to play at home in front of friends and family every night.
Jhonas Enroth has been Ryan Miller's backup for the last two years. He had played parts of four seasons in the Swedish leagues prior to joining the AHL's Portland Pirates in 2008-09.
It would be an easy transition for him, and he needs to stay sharp for Buffalo. Miller is trying to rebound from an off-year, but if he struggles, Lindy Ruff knows Enroth can step right in.
Obviously, if the Stockholm native makes the move, one would assume he'd do so to a Swedish Elite League team.
2. Ville Leino
Finnish-born Ville Leino is the next Sabre that could possibly sign with a foreign team. He, more than any other, could benefit greatly from the experience as well.
Leino didn't just struggle last year. He was down right bad at times.
His breakout season with Philadelphia, 2010-11, saw him score 19 goals and 53 points. Last year with the Sabres, Leino only scored seven goals and 25 points.
There were numerous situations throughout the course of the season where he clearly lacked confidence. Over-passing was common, as the Finn seemed afraid to shoot.
The pressure from the big contract he signed mounted as the fans grew intolerant of his ineffectiveness.
Returning home to a league that saw him score 77 points in 58 games during his final year there, might be just what the doctor ordered to cure his scoring ills.
3. Andrej Sekera
The Sabres underachieved big-time last year, so Leino was hardly the only player who had a disappointing season. Andrej Sekera also saw his game regress.
In 2010-11, he set career highs in games played (76), assists (26), and points (29). That led to him signing a four-year deal worth $11 million in July 2011 to stay in Buffalo.
He followed that up with only 13 points last year. His season was a microcosm of his career, as Sekera's always been viewed as a talented player whose biggest drawback is consistency.
The Slovakian defenseman played one season in his home country before joining Owen Sound of the OHL in 2004-05. He, like Leino, could greatly benefit from regaining some confidence and playing big minutes.
Buffalo's biggest concern won't be if these players decide to play overseas. It will be whether or not they end up staying there, even after the lockout is over.