Ville Leino

PHT Morning Skate: Worst signings of decade; Preds’ goalie transition

Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• The Capitals have had a solid month of December, but there’s still reason for them to worry. (RMNB)

• The Hurricanes have been an undisciplined hockey team over the last little while. (Cardiac Cane)

• Is Tampa’s goalie coach the reason for Andrei Vasilevskiy‘s struggles? (Raw Charge)

• The Rangers need to figure out a way to win more faceoffs. (New York Post)

• Check out the five best and worst free-agent signings the Penguins made over the past decade. (Pensburgh)

• The Buffalo Sabres could look to the minors for some help in goal. (Die by the Blade)

• Here are the 10 best moments for the St. Louis Blues over the last decade. Number one should be easy enough to figure out. (St. Louis Game-Time)

• How can Quinn Hughes actually win the Calder Trophy? (Canucks Army)

• The Hockey News breaks down the worst signings of the decade. (The Hockey News)

• With Alexis Lafreniere out with an injury, Caps first-rounder Connor McMichael is expected to get a bigger role on Team Canada at the World Juniors. (TSN)

• The Predators’ goalie transition is made simpler by the fact that Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros are friends. (NHL)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Report: Leino signs in KHL

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After failing to make the Boston Bruins roster while on a camp invite, Ville Leino has reportedly signed in the KHL.

According to Sportnet’s Chris Johnston, Leino has signed with Medvescak Zagreb in the Russian league.

Leino was bought out of the final three years of his six-year, $27 million contract by the Buffalo Sabres in the summer.

The undrafted forward has appeared in 286 NHL games scoring 40 goals and 119 points with the Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers and Buffalo Sabres.

Leino is no stranger to playing in Europe. Prior to joining the American Hockey League’s Grand Rapids Griffins for the 2008-09 season, the 31-year-old spent six years playing professionally in Finland.

Bruins’ Pastrnak returns to practice, Campbell questionable

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Boston Bruins 2014 first round pick David Pastrnak returned to practice Sunday.

Pastrnak suffered a shoulder injury early in training camp after taking a hit from defenseman Matt Bartkowski.

The 18-year-old, who was selected 25th overall in June, had an impressive showing early in camp and was working is way into contention for a roster spot prior to the injury.

On Sunday, Pastrnak skated on a line with forwards Ryan Spooner and Ville Leino.

However, following practice, Bruins coach Claude Julien said the rookie has not been cleared for contact as of yet, but the team would like to see him in game action before having to make a decision on where he’ll play this season.

Pastrnak had eight goals and 24 points in 36 games last season in the second-tier pro league in Sweden.

Julien also updated forward Gregory Campbell’s situation Sunday saying that the rugged forward is questionable for the team’s season opener Oct. 8.

Boston trimmed their camp roster by 11 players Sunday.

Sabres use compliance buyout on Christian Ehrhoff

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Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray is pulling out all the stops to make his mark.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports the Sabres will be using their second compliance buyout on defenseman Christian Ehrhoff.

Ehrhoff, 31, signed a 10-year, $40 million deal with Buffalo in 2011, the same summer they signed forward Ville Leino to a six-year, $27 million deal. The Sabres used their first compliance buyout on Leino on June 18.

Update (3:45 p.m. ET): Sabres make it official – they’ve used a compliance buyout on Ehrhoff.

While buying out Leino was expected, the Ehrhoff move came out of nowhere. Two seasons ago he was Buffalo’s top blue liner and defensive point producer. This past season he struggled a bit scoring six goals and adding 27 assists for a Sabres team that was worst in the league.

While Ehrhoff’s play was mostly fine, Ehrhoff was subject to the league’s cap recapture penalty if his career ended before the contract was up. That means the Sabres would’ve been punished against the salary cap in a big way if he was out of hockey before the 2020-21 season when the deal ended. CapGeek.com has different ways it could’ve broke down.

The buyout is a compliance buyout and his $4 million cap hit won’t be on the books, but the Sabres will be paying him $12 million until 2027-28.

Ehrhoff will now be free to be signed as a free agent on July 1 and he’ll have no shortage of suitors. He’s capable of running a power play and playing big minutes. He’ll compete with Pittsburgh’s Matt Niskanen for  big free agent dollars.

No surprise: Sabres waive Leino for purpose of buyout

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Action has picked up on Day 2 of the NHL’s compliance buyout window.

Around the same time Vancouver put David Booth on waivers so he could be amnestied, word broke that Buffalo would do the same with beleaguered forward Ville Leino.

First reported by the Buffalo News, word of Leino’s buyout shouldn’t come as much of a surprise — back in mid-April, GM Tim Murray said buying out Leino was “a very good possibility.”

Leino, 30, recently wrapped the third of a six-year, $27 million deal that’s widely regarded as one of the NHL’s most onerous contracts. Signed by ex-GM Darcy Regier after shooting to prominence with the Flyers — when he found magic during the ’10 playoffs with Scott Hartnell and Daniel Briere, scoring 21 points in 19 games — Leino has been a colossal disappointment in Buffalo, scoring just 46 points in 137 games while missing 75 to a variety of injuries, healthy scratches and a suspension.

This year, Leino gained infamy by failing to score a single goal in 58 games, and only put 38 shots on goal.

Buffalo has yet to use either of its compliance buyouts — where the salary-cap charge is completely wiped clean, but the team must pay two-thirds of the remaining contract across twice the remaining term of the deal — opting to use a regular buyout, not a compliance, on Nathan Gerbe last summer.

Assuming nobody plucks Leino off waivers and the Sabres buy him out, they’ll be relieved of his $4.5 million cap hit over the next three seasons but will pay him $1.22 million per season until 2020.

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