Sometimes the skeptics get it right.
In 2011, Ville Leino signed a six-year, $27-million contract with the Buffalo Sabres as an unrestricted free agent. His price tag was too rich for the Philadelphia Flyers, which is saying something. So owner Terry Pegula inked him for the Sabres for a ludicrous $4.5 million cap hit. At time, we wrote about how Leino could “become a symbol of a novice billionaire hockey owner spending money haphazardly in his first summer.”
Something, in fact, Leino did become.
And now he’s going to be an ex-Sabre.
John Vogl of the Buffalo News reports that the Sabres have dropped Leino on waivers for the purposes of giving him a compliance buyout – removing him from their salary cap without penalty.
It will cost the Sabres $7.33 million to buy out the remaining three seasons of Leino’s contract. The team signed him to a six-year, $27 million deal in 2011, and he’s already been paid $16 million.
It’s an interesting move for the Sabres. Not buying out Leino, which is something a toddler with a My First Calculator could have deduced, but deciding not to have that money on their cap. As Vogl writes:
The Sabres’ salary cap number next season is just under $39 million, according to CapGeek.com, and the salary cap floor will be approximately $52 million. They could use a regular buyout on Leino to help them get to the lower limit.
Leino had 46 points in 137 games with the Sabres, including two goals in his last 66 games. He was a healthy scratch at times this season, becoming a scapegoat for Ted Nolan while players like Drew Stafford and Steve Ott were every bit as terrible but escaped punishment. Poor Ville.
In hindsight, the Sabres can only blame themselves for this debacle. They gave a six-year deal to a player who had one decent season in the NHL – 53 points in 81 games with the Flyers, the year before free agency – and then tried to turn a player who excelled on the wing into their second line center, which turned out to be the biggest disaster in Buffalo since Scott Norwood aimed right.
Leino now has the arduous task of rebuilding his career from this rubble, which means taking a short term “show me” contract from some team looking for scoring depth.
Hopefully, some day down the road, he becomes something more than a cautionary tale about the dangers of mixing free agency and novice owners.