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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