Christian Ehrhoff retires from hockey, but Sabres will keep paying him

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With a booming, erratic slapper and 789 regular-season games of NHL experience, Christian Ehrhoff left an impact on the game from a literal and metaphorical standpoint.

The German defenseman recently announced his retirement via his Instagram account, and did so in the best of ways, by sharing a photo from his hockey-playing youth. Before we get nerdy about the Sabres/NHL teams spending a ton of money on inactive players, let’s take a moment to celebrate what was ultimately an impressive hockey career:

View this post on Instagram

So hat alles angefangen und heute endet meine professionelle Karriere! 19 Jahre Profi sind eine lange Zeit. Danke an meine Teams, Mitspieler, Coaches, Betreuer, Physios, Ärzte und natürlich den Fans für die Unterstützung und unzählige wunderschöne Momente und Erinnerungen. Ein besonderes Dankeschön an meine Frau Farina, meine Kinder, meine Eltern und meine Schwester, ohne eure Unterstützung, eure Aufopferung und euren Rückhalt wäre es für mich nicht möglich gewesen Leistung auf höchsten Niveau zu bringen! #itwasagreatride #CE10 After 19 years of pro hockey I‘ve decided to call it a career. Thanks to all my teams, teammates, coaches, staff members and fans for your support and countless amazing memories.

A post shared by Christian Ehrhoff (@cehrhoff) on

The 35-year-old’s most lasting impact might be on the Buffalo Sabres’ payroll, though, as the Buffalo News’ John Vogl notes.

Indeed, that $857K toll will run through 2027-28.

Fork in the road

It’s interesting to remember that the Islanders gave up a fourth-round pick to acquire Ehrhoff’s rights back in 2011.

The Isles are already stuck paying off Rick DiPietro’s buyout for a whopping 16 years. If Ehrhoff accepted rather than nixing the Islanders’ advances, would the Islanders be stuck paying both? Would Ehrhoff’s career have ended up being more successful?

(After being bought out by Buffalo before the 2014-15 season, Ehrhoff played for the Penguins in 2014-15, the Kings in 2015-16, and then eight games for Chicago in 2015-16 before closing out his career in Germany.)

It’s quite the “What if?” scenario that might just make Islanders feel a little better during a tough time.

Buffalo’s bumbles

Ehrhoff is far from the only player the Sabres are paying to, well, not play. It’s a disquieting subsection of the Sabres’ salary structure (see their Cap Friendly page), as if Buffalo fans need more reasons to grumble about management mistakes from the past.

Via Cap Friendly, the total value of Ehrhoff’s buyout is $12 million. June 2014 ended up being an expensive run of compliance buyouts for the Sabres, as they also got rid of Ville Leino’s disastrous deal. Leino is scheduled to receive $1.22M from Buffalo through 2019-20, with the six-year buyout carrying a total value of $7.33M. None of those two buyouts affect the cap since, again, they were compliance buyouts.

About a year later in late June 2015, the Sabres also bought out Cody Hodgson’s deal, with an eight-year value of $6.33M. Since this was a more traditional buyout, the cap impact varies.

The Sabres are also “burying” the Matt Moulson deal in the AHL at the moment. His near-$4M cap hit won’t expire until after 2018-19, so there’s a jarring sum of dead money on Buffalo’s payroll. You might even say it sort of makes the debate about paying Jack Eichel $10M per year feel a little moot?

The Bobby Bonilla Bunch

Ehrhoff belongs in a select group that feels a lot like the Bobby Bonillas of hockey.

Allow an explanation: as ESPN’s Darren Rovell noted a couple years ago, the New York Mets are slated to pay Bonilla a bit more than $1M every year through 2035.

A man who last played 5,381 days ago owns this day. Not just this July 1, but every July 1 through 2035. It’s the day when the New York Mets pay him $1,193,248.20.

Let’s take a look at a handful of buyouts that are eye-popping in cost and duration, even if they’re not Bonilla-bombastic. Cap Friendly has a handy tool for this, so if you want to entertain yourself, sort the different categories.

PLAYER TEAM DATE VALUE LENGTH LAST YEAR
Vincent Lecavalier TBL Jun 27, 2013 $32,666,667 14 2026-27
Rick DiPietro NYI Jun 3, 2013 $24,000,000 16 2028-29
Ilya Bryzgalov PHI Jun 25, 2013 $23,000,000 14 2026-27
Brad Richards NYR Jun 20, 2014 $20,666,667 12 2025-26
Alexei Yashin NYI Jun 6, 2007 $17,632,000 8 2014-15
Mikhail Grabovski TOR Jul 4, 2013 $14,333,333 8 2020-21
Alexander Semin CAR Jun 30, 2015 $14,000,000 6 2020-21
Ehrhoff BUF Jun 29, 2014 $12,000,000 14 2027-28
Mike Ribeiro ARI Jun 27, 2014 $11,666,667 6 2019-20
Stephen Weiss DET Jun 30, 2015 $10,000,000 6 2020-21

Interesting stuff, eh?

Here’s hoping Ehrhoff enjoys himself after hanging up his skates. If nothing else, that buyout should provide him with some … walking around money.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.