BUFFALO – As expected, the Sabres have placed Ville Leino on unconditional waivers and will be using a compliance buyout on the final three seasons of the Finn’s six-year, $27 million deal, ridding themselves of perhaps the worst contract in NHL history.
Yes, the worst ever.
When he wasn’t battling a series of injuries, the 30-year-old forward produced only 10 goals and 46 points in 137 games with the Sabres, including zero goals in 58 appearances in 2013-14.
Sabres general manager Tim Murray, who took over in January, said following the season it was “a very good possibility” Leino would be bought out. Now, one of the most maligned Buffalo athletes in recent memory is gone.
The Sabres owe Leino two-thirds of the $11 million remaining on the final three years of his contract. Since it’s a compliance buyout, Leino’s salary cap hit is gone.
The breakdown of the $7,333,333 payout, according to capgeek.com:
– 2014-15: $1,222,222
– 2015-16: $1,222,222
– 2016-17: $1,222,222
– 2017-18: $1,222,222
– 2018-19: $1,222,222
– 2019-20: $1,222,222
According to capgeek.com, the buyout is the sixth-largest in NHL history, ranking behind only Vincent Lecavlier, Rick DiPietro, Ilya Bryzgalov, Alexei Yashin and Mikhail Grabovski.
Given Leino’s meager production, his NHL career could be over. One rumor has him returning to his native Finland to play for Jokerit Helsinki, which begins play in the KHL next season. Leino played his last European season with that club in 2007-08.
It’s easy to forget now, but signing Leino, while risky, made some sense as free agency opened in 2011. Back then, the Sabres needed another scoring center as they loaded up for what they believed would be a long Stanley Cup run.
With Brad Richards the only name center on the market, former GM Darcy Regier got creative, overpaying for Leino, who had played wing during his brief NHL career with Detroit and Philadelphia. The Sabres said Leino, a center in Finland before coming to North America in 2008, wanted to go back to the middle.
Clearly, that wasn’t the case. Leino was back on the wing that October and spent his entire Sabres career moving around.