Christian Ehrhoff: Smart Free Agent Gamble


It’s bargain shopping now for NHL general managers.  As the calendar creeps closer to the start of training camp, teams are taking a final look over the free agency pool to see if there are any last-second upgrades available.  It was a thin free agency class at the start of summer; it’s nothing more than dumpster diving now for the most part.  However, there are still several players available that could help a team round out its roster.  While some may differ, I just can’t help noticing one name out there and keep wondering why he isn’t signed: Christian Ehrhoff.

The 33-year old is likely looking at his third team in three seasons when he eventually is signed.  He spent last season with the Pittsburgh Penguins after being bought out by the Buffalo Sabres, three years into a 10-year contract.  He’s been a 50-point player once in his career (2010/11 in Vancouver) and has a reputation for being a good offensive-defenseman who won’t embarrass himself in his own end.

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But, I’m well aware there are issues.  Last season he suffered multiple concussions which limited him to only 49 games played and none in the Penguins’ first-round playoff exit.  He hasn’t played since March 24th, so it’ll have been more than six months the next time he plays in a meaningful hockey game.  And there is no doubt the close proximity of concussions has scared off a number of potential suitors.

But the one thing Christian Ehrhoff has made clear is that he’s willing to accept a one-year deal again.  He made $4 million last season with Pittsburgh, and it’s likely that he would be forced to take a pay cut wherever he signs.  Of course with his injury history, it’s a risk.  But for a one-year gamble?  Yeah, that’s a gamble that could pay off huge dividends for a number of teams looking to tighten up their blue line.

Will Christian Ehrhoff ever regain his 50-point ability?  No.  But could he be an effective third-pairing defenseman who can play top-four minutes in a pinch and help a power play (29 of his 72 career goals are on the power play)?  Absolutely.  A contender is going to look real smart this season when Ehrhoff is giving them quality play for little money.

So who makes sense to sign Christian Ehrhoff?

New York Islanders

There are actually some rumors from Newsday’s Arthur Staple that the Islanders have been in discussions with Marek Zidlicky over the past few weeks, although nothing has come to fruition.  The Islanders’ were crushed with injuries on the blue line late last season and tried going down the Christian Ehrhoff road once before.  The Islanders’ defense is filled with question marks after their top three, and adding a veteran like Ehrhoff would make many fans rest easy at night knowing they finally have some quality depth.

Dallas Stars

The Stars have made some headway towards improving their defense by signing Johnny Oduya. But, the team knows it won’t go very far if it can’t improve on the fourth most goals allowed last season.  Christian Ehrhoff would be a nice insurance policy for a team that is projected to start several inexperienced defensemen.  With the Cup-champion Blackhawks, Wild, and Blues sharing the same division, the Stars will be hard-pressed to keep the puck out of their net if they can’t add more help.

Los Angeles Kings

With Slava Voynov’s legal troubles surrounding the team and throwing a wrench into the Kings’ blue line (which is the least of the worries with his troubles), the club should be in the market for another defenseman to deepen its group.  Drew Doughty, Alec Martinez, and Jake Muzzin are a solid trio, but there are questions after that.  Christian Ehrhoff wants a chance to play for a championship, and the Kings can sell him on its recent title successes.  Not only can Ehrhoff help in his own end, but he should be able to provide a little more punch from the back end in the offensive zone and improve an offense that was 18th in scoring last season.

Boston Bruins

After trading Dougie Hamilton this summer, the Bruins could use another quality defenseman on the blue line.  They signed Matt Irwin, but between Irwin, Zach Trotman, and Kevan Miller, there are serious questions for the Bruins.  On paper the Bruins look like a bubble playoff team and could possibly miss spring time hockey for the second straight season.  Christian Ehrhoff alone won’t change those fortunes, but it gives coach Claude Julien another veteran to lean on that can contribute to the third pair.

What happens now to Christian Ehrhoff is anyone’s guess.  But he is going to get signed before the season starts, and he is going to make someone very happy.

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