Ask Christian Ehrhoff about the high expectations, ask Sabres general manager Darcy Regier about his new $40 million defenseman, and both will give similar answers. Ehrhoff is part of an ensemble cast. Hopefully, the German can just fit in and produce like he did in Vancouver.
“You have to deal with those expectations, with that pressure,” Ehrhoff said Wednesday inside the HSBC Arena Harbor Club, his first meeting with the Buffalo media since he signed an eye-popping 10-year contract June 30. “I played in Vancouver before. It’s a very pressure-filled city. So far, I’ve dealt with that pretty good.”
True, although Ehrhoff never earned more than $3.4 million during his two seasons with the Canucks. The 29-year-old will make a whopping $10 million in 2011-12, the NHL’s second-highest salary behind center Brad Richards’ $12 million.
Forget Ehrhoff only has a $4 million salary cap hit. If he slips a little, if he can’t at least duplicate the 15 goals, 47 points or plus-28 rating he averaged the past two seasons, Sabres fans will howl. Nine goals, 35 points and a plus-5 won’t cut it.
“To me, it really doesn’t put that much more pressure on me,” Ehrhoff said about his contract. “I put a lot of pressure on myself. I want to be a big part of this franchise for many years to come.”
Regier simply wants Ehrhoff to “play to his gift, to do what he does very well.”
That, of course, is producing points, moving the puck and playing on the No. 1 power play. Ehrhoff clearly fits the Sabres’ aggressive style well. He’s just one of six defensemen, though.
“Organizationally, I think we can support him in any other area that maybe he isn’t as gifted, whether it’s with Tyler Myers or Robyn Regehr or (Jordan) Leopold back there, or one of the younger guys, (Marc-Andre) Gragnani,” Regier said. “He’ll have lots of support, and I think that’s the critical factor, not having everything on one person.”