2010 NHL Free Agency: Buffalo Sabres re-sign Matt Ellis to one-year deal

mattellisfightsforpuck.jpgWhile the team hasn’t released financial details yet, the Buffalo Sabres announced that they signed 29-year-old forward Matt Ellis to a one-year deal today. Here are a few tidbits about Ellis from the team’s Web site.

Ellis (8/31/1981, 6′, 212 lbs.) spent last season in Buffalo where he set career highs in games played (72), points (13) and assists (10). Ellis, who turns 29 today, now has 33 points (13+20) in 187 career NHL games with Buffalo, Los Angeles and Detroit.

Ellis is about as marginal as a forward gets, so I decided to consult Buffalo Sabres blog Die by the Blade’s report card for a little more elaboration. This excerpt captures the good and the bad regarding the depth forward.

Thumbs Up: The 28-year-old wasn’t goaded into taking stupid, meaningless penalties, as he spent a total of 12 minutes in the box between the regular campaign and postseason. He was a healthy scratch for ten games and played with the worst quality of teammates, but didn’t complain. Due to his lack of shifts, he actually had a goals per 60 minutes ratio that was above six teammates, as was his points per 60 minutes and the assists comparison was closer to the middle of the group. Again, the shots on goal are encouraging because that strategy can never be frowned upon. In the face-off circle, he won half of his draws which was 0.4 per cent less than Derek Roy, who took almost 1,000 more attempts. With his percentage being the fourth highest, some penalty-killing here and there might bolster his game. One of the few forwards with more takeaways (18) than giveaways (11). For all of the people that might remember his last 2010 moment as Johnny Boychuk’s victim to a crushing check, I’ll prefer to cite Ellis’ standing up and skating to the bench on his own two feet.

Thumbs Down: Perhaps this will illustrate why Ellis’ minutes were so petite. He didn’t look as comfortable in his first full season with Buffalo as he did in the 45 games of 2009 (12 points that year, but just 13 points in 27 more matches). Throwing 34 hits and blocking 20 shots is unacceptable for a lower-line checker. While the lack of opportunity certainly explains part of it, he must get more involved defensively and physically. Patrick Kaleta, who saw a minute and change of extra ice time routinely, punished way more people with the body and blocked more shots. And if Drew Stafford and Jochen Hecht can swing away with their fists, Ellis surely can do it multiple times through a campaign.

From the looks of things, the Buffalo Sabres will be just as dependent on all-world goalie Ryan Miller next season as they were in 09-10. As great as Miller is, you have to wonder if he’ll be able to carry that squad to a second consecutive Northeast division title. Ellis is a hard worker, but I doubt he’ll make much of a difference as Buffalo tries to build on a great regular season and improve upon a weak playoff output.

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    Capitals accuse Letang of leaving his feet, hitting Johansson in head

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    Get this: the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins seem divided on the legality of Kris Letang‘s hit on Marcus Johansson.

    (Take a moment to gather your thoughts amid this shocking revelation.)

    You can watch the hit over and over in the video above. This post features some takes on that check, which the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly reviewing.

    Generally speaking, the three things people discuss regarding the check is how late it might be, if Letang used his feet and if Johansson’s head was the principal point of contact.

    Letang told his side of the story:

    The Capitals disagree:

    While Barry Trotz pleads the Fifth after his previous comments about Brooks Orpik‘s suspension:

    No doubt about it, Letang’s status is the top story to follow in this series between Games 3 and 4. We’ll find out soon enough how it all shakes out.

    Penguins ride Murray’s masterpiece to 2-1 series lead vs. Capitals

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    If Marc-Andre Fleury suiting up bothers Matt Murray, then the rookie goalie channeled those feelings into a masterful performance on Monday.

    The Washington Capitals absolutely dominated Game 3, but Murray was even better, stopping 47 shots as the Penguins stole one 3-2 to take a 2-1 series lead.

    (Capitals fans might see some parallels to Washington’s Game 5 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers; they fell 2-0 despite a 44-11 shots on goal edge thanks to Michal Neuvirth‘s heroics.)

    Murray stopped chance after chance before Alex Ovechkin finally broke through for his first goal of this series. Justin Williams then brought the Penguins’ lead down to 3-2 to make for a hold-your-breath final minute.

    A driven Ovechkin and strong overall play from the Capitals (despite this defeat) aren’t the only reasons why Game 4 might present some twists.

    First things first: Kris Letang might get suspended for Game 4 (if not for more than one game) thanks to this controversial check on Marcus Johansson.

    Beyond that, there could be some bumps and bruises from this contest.

    Bryan Rust left during the first period and didn’t return to the game after blocking a shot. Brian Dumoulin seemed shaken up after an Alex Ovechkin hit in the third period. The Capitals might have a player or two to look at, as well.

    In other words, the Penguins could really lack for quality defensemen with Letang possibly suspended and possible injury absences for Dumoulin and Olli Maatta.

    This series is living up to the hype … and really building up the hate.

    Yes, NHL is reportedly looking at Letang’s hit on Johansson

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    It remains to be seen if Kris Letang will get suspended for his hit on Marcus Johansson … and if he does, for how long.

    (You can read initial reactions and some analysis about the specifics of the check vs. the one that got Brooks Orpik suspended here.)

    There are a few things we do know already.

    For one thing, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly looking into it.

    Another factor that could help Letang avoid a suspension or limit the duration of supplemental discipline: Marcus Johansson returned during the second period.

    In fact, Johansson delivered some hits on Letang.

    There have been some nasty moments in Game 3, and more might be coming. The Penguins lead 2-0 with a few minutes remaining in the middle frame.

    Kris Letang may face suspension for hit on Marcus Johansson

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    Update: Reports indicate that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is indeed looking into the hit.

    ***

    As thrilling as this Pittsburgh Penguins – Washington Capitals series has been, it seems like every game presents another controversial hit.

    Game 3’s most noteworthy entry (so far?) came when Kris Letang was whistled for interference on Marcus Johansson.

    Penguins fans griped that Brooks Orpik didn’t get a major penalty for his hit on Olli Maatta … now Capitals fans likely feel the same about the check Letang delivered.

    Watch it in the video above. Also, Stefanie “My Regular Face” has it in GIF form:

    Things could get ugly in Game 3:

    One factor in a suspension happening – or at least the duration of the suspension – would be what the point of contact was:

    Also, lateness of the check:

    The Penguins ended the first period up 2-0 against the Capitals, even though Washington played one of its best 20 minutes of the series. Expect more drama.

    Update: The Penguins won the game 3-2.

    Read reactions to the check here.