Big Ville Style: Sabres sign Leino to 6-year contract
If you can’t beat them, sign them.
After watching him score the goal that basically eliminated Buffalo in this year’s playoffs, the Sabres decided it’d be better to have him in blue and gold.
Making their first move after free agency opened at noon on Friday, Buffalo inked former Philadelphia Flyers forward Ville Leino to a six-year, $27 million deal.
“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,” Regier said. “He was someone we identified early and moved him to the top of the list.”
Leino had a breakout season in 2010-11, tallying 19 goals and 53 points, both career highs. While he has spent time at wing in the NHL, Lindy Ruff plans to use him to solidify the Sabres’ center situation.
The 27-year-old Finn scored three goals in the seven-game Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against Buffalo, including the aforementioned game-winner in overtime of Game 6, forcing a seventh game, which Philadelphia won.
It’s a solid move for the Sabres, who were never really very interested in Brad Richards, considered the top prize on the market. While the contract can be seen as a risk due to the fact that Leino has not had more than one good NHL season, there’s no reason to think last season was a fluke. Ville is a proven playoff performer, registering 28 points in 37 career playoff games with Philadelphia and Detroit.
Leino will likely slot in as the second-line center on the roster, and his work in the corners and puck possession skills should open up opportunities for his linemates.
His contract will count $4.5 million against the salary cap.