Yes, the Buffalo Sabres could keep Ville Leino next season. You see, with salary floor growing to more than $50 million, the rebuilding club might need the enigmatic Finn’s six-year, $27 million contract to eat up cap space.
They certainly don’t want to keep the 30-year-old, a healthy scratch tonight against the Edmonton Oilers, for his production.
“Maybe he just needs a little rest and he’ll wake up,” interim Sabres coach Ted Nolan told reporters in Edmonton today.
Leino’s enduring arguably the worst year for a Sabres forward ever. Yes, ever.
Despite averaging 14:26 of ice time in his 50 appearances, Leino has zero goals, 12 points and a minus-14 rating. He has zero points in the last 10 games. Nolan benched him for the rest of Tuesday’s 3-1 loss after the Flames scored with 1:02 left in the second period.
Leino didn’t challenge the point shot very emphatically.
“He has to be better,” Nolan said. “Going forward here, we have to make sure the people in the lineup are giving what they can give. If they don’t give what they can give, then we’ll make changes.”
This is the third time Nolan has benched Leino this season. Nolan’s almost certainly returning as coach. Leino’s the one player, at least publicly, who has criticized Nolan.
You think Ted wants him back?
With only 13 games left, perhaps the Sabres are starting to shut Leino down so he doesn’t get hurt and they can buy him out.
Center Zenon Konopka will replace Leino.