AP Source: Sabres, D Ehrhoff reach a 10-year deal

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - The Buffalo Sabres' gamble to acquire and then sign Christian Ehrhoff before the start of free agency has paid off after the veteran defenseman agreed to a 10-year, $40 million contract on Thursday.

The terms of the deal were confirmed by a person familiar with negotiations, who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because those details were not released by the Sabres.

The move comes a day before Ehrhoff was eligible from becoming a free agent, when he would be free to take offers from around the NHL. And it comes a day after the Sabres made the bold move to give up a fourth-round draft pick to acquire his rights in a trade with the New York Islanders.

It was the second day Ehrhoff had been traded after the Islanders acquired him from Vancouver.

Negotiations began early Thursday after the team first contacted Ehrhoff in his native Germany.

The Sabres had no immediate comment, except to announce the signing on their Twitter account.

It's the second major move the Sabres have completed in less than a week, and marks another sign of the influence new owner Terry Pegula has since purchasing the team in February. The Pennsylvania billionaire has made it no secret of his intention to transform the Sabres into a bona fide contender after they were bounced in the first round of the playoffs in each of the past two years.

The Sabres began retooling their roster last weekend, when they acquired defenseman Robyn Regehr and forward Ales Kotalik in a trade with Calgary.

Ehrhoff is a seven-year NHL veteran who made $3.4 million in the final year of his contract last year. He's a puck-moving blue-liner who fits the Sabres' system.

Ehrhoff had 14 goals, 36 assists and a plus-19 rating in 79 games for Vancouver last season. He had two goals and 10 assists in the Canucks' run to the Stanley Cup finals, but was a minus-13 while hampered with a nagging shoulder injury.

Overall, the 28-year-old has 53 goals, 173 assists and 338 penalty minutes in 500 regular-season games with San Jose and Vancouver. He has seven goals and 27 assists in 73 playoff games.

The Sabres opened the week identifying needs at defense and center.

Earlier in the day, general manager Darcy Regier said he made the trade for Ehrhoff, because he wanted to have the first crack at signing the player given that this year's crop of topflight free agents is comparatively smaller than previous summers.

"We decided we would try to get a head start. And it's costly, I mean a fourth-round pick is significant," Regier said. "But it's an advantage I think we plan on making pay off."

Ehrhoff's deal was completed on the day Regehr visited Buffalo for the first time since being traded.

Regehr said he "made the right decision" to drop his no-trade clause to allow the deal to happen. And he credited Pegula for the hands-on approach he took during trade talks.

Pegula contacted Regehr several times to sell the player on the Sabres. And Pegula then flew to Regehr's home in northern Saskatchewan shortly after the trade was completed.

"We heard on the phone how committed Terry, Darcy and Lindy (Ruff) are to the Sabres," Regehr said. "And I think this just goes to show you that they're willing to back it up with actions as well."

Regehr then described the Sabres' bid to sign Ehrhoff as another indication of Pegula's desire to build a winner.

"I think it's great," Regehr said. "That's a definite change and another sign of the change that's happening here with this hockey team."