Pens surprise, ink Ehrhoff to one-year, $4M deal

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The Pittsburgh Penguins scored the first major coup of free agency on Tuesday, agreeing to terms with defenseman Christian Ehrhoff on a one-year, $4 million deal.

The contract, first reported by TSN’s Bob McKenzie, is a surprise on a number of fronts. One, it’s a short-term deal, a surprising move from the Ehrhoff camp considering he was arguably the top UFA d-man available and probably had his choice of suitors. Two, there hadn’t been many Pittsburgh ties to Ehrhoff after he was bought out of his 10-year, $40 million deal by Buffalo on Sunday.

“My first priority was to be on a good team,” Ehrhoff told TSN. “They have great players. I’m excited to play with [Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin].”

Ehrhoff added that he was “sad it didn’t work out in Buffalo,” but that he “wasn’t happy with the whole rebuild” that the Sabres started.

With the move, Pittsburgh now projects to ice a top-six defense of Ehrhoff, Kris Letang, Paul Martin, Olli Maatta, Rob Scuderi and Roberto Bortuzzo/Simon Despres for next season.  It remains to be seen how touted d-man prospects Derrick Pouliot and Brian Dumoulin will fit into the mix, though they’ll likely be given a chance to compete for a gig in camp.

As for Ehrhoff, he will bring a further offensive flair to the blueline and possibly replace the production Matt Niskanen had in ’13-14. The German rearguard had 33 points in 79 games for the Sabres last season and is only a few years removed from the career-high 50 he put up with Vancouver in 2010-11.