As the period during which NHL teams could use their remaining compliance buyouts began Monday, there were a few obvious players that were expected to be waived in the immediate future. One of those players was Buffalo Sabres forward Ville Leino, who has three years remaining on his six-year deal signed in 2011 at an annual cap hit of $4.5 million. The Sabres waived Leino Tuesday according to multiple reports to begin the process of buying out his contract.
Leino has played in just 137 games for the Sabres over the first three years of his contract and has scored just 10 goals.
The veteran Finnish forward will be viewed as a cautionary tale of how not to spend in free agency. He was inked to a six-year, 27 million deal in 2011-12 after he had posted a 53-point season and was a year removed from a terrific playoff run with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010 in which he posted 19 points in 21 games.
The Sabres had newfound spending power thanks to owner Terry Pegula who wanted then-general manager Darcy Regier to be aggressive in free agency. They signed Christian Ehrhoff that same summer to a long-term, but sensible deal for a player of his talent. The other key piece brought in was Leino, who had only had just over two seasons of NHL service and a 73 total points over that span.
When Pegula came with his billions of dollars and extreme love for the Sabres as a fan, the optimism was extremely high that championship days were ahead. The problem was that it was followed by a summer where there were no big-splash free agents that they could start building that championship team. They spent like there was anyway.
The money was ill spent on Leino, who struggled through injuries and never came close to living up to the deal he was given. You look at the recent problems of the Sabres and their precipitous decline, that expensive offseason with little return is a prime suspect.
Buffalo is now in the midst of a brick-by-brick rebuild. Buying out Leino was the next logical step in erasing the mistakes of the past and starting anew.
According to CapGeek, this is what Leino will be owed between next season and 2020:
- 2014-15: $1,722,222
- 2015-16: $2,222,222
- 2016-17: $2,222,222
- 2017-18: $1,222,222
- 2018-19: $1,222,222
- 2019-20: $1,222,222
It may be extremely difficult for Leino to find work in the NHL after the last three seasons of injuries and disappointment. He very well could go back to his native Finland where he could join former club Jokerit, which is headed to the KHL next season.
The Sabres now have no buyouts remaining as they used one on Nathan Gerbe last offseason.