You think the Buffalo Sabres are regretting the mammoth contract they signed Ville Leino to back in 2011?
The six-year, $27 million deal Leino inked with Buffalo hardly made sense when it occurred. He was coming off a 53 point season with the Philadelphia Flyers, but it was also his first full year in the NHL. Still, new owner Terry Pegula was trying to make some noise in the free agency market, and this was one of his attempts.
The noise you’ve heard since this signing was a resounding thud. In his third year with the Sabres, Leino has accumulated 43 total points. For those paying attention, that’s three combined seasons worth of stats with Buffalo and he still hasn’t topped the 53 points he achieved with Philadelphia in one year. It’s safe to say the front office isn’t exactly seeing a correlation between Leino’s yearly salary – $4.5 million a year – and what he’s contributing to the team.
New coach Ted Nolan has realized this as well, designating Leino as a healthy scratch more than a few times this year. All in all, it sounds like everyone is frustrated about this, including Leino himself. Rejoining the lineup tonight for the first time in two games, the Finnish forward was asked about his lack of offense and if it’s having an effect on him.
“I’m sure it weighs on me, too, but obviously there are a lot of other guys on the team, too, that haven’t been able to really help that much either,” he said to the Buffalo News.
Win as a team, lose as a team, I guess. At the same time, when you break this down a little further, it doesn’t make Leino look any better.
Only one current Sabres player has a higher yearly salary than Leino, and that’s defenseman Tyler Myers. He’s struggled this year as well, but has ten more points than Leino. There are a few players who are paid $4 million and up, such as Drew Stafford, Chris Stewart and Cody Hodgson, but those are also three of the top four Sabres in terms of points this season.
The issue isn’t just the fact that Leino is struggling, it’s that he’s doing so while making way more money than he should be. It’s frustrating for the front office, for the fans and apparently for Leino himself. Nobody seems to be happy about anything involving this contract.
Because of this, it’s almost a sure-thing that Leino will be bought out by the Sabres this offseason. I can’t imagine anything that would convince Buffalo to do otherwise. They’d probably not get much of anything at all if they tried to trade him, and it’s even less likely Leino would be willing to restructure his contract.
Leino may not be happy about the lack of production and the criticism that comes with it, but if there’s any good news, it’ll be that he won’t have to deal with questions from the Buffalo media much longer. What he should do in these final few games with the Sabres is enjoy every single minute of it, whether he’s scratched or not. Thanks to the severely underwhelming time with the Sabres, this current contract will probably be the highest Leino is going to be paid for quite a while.