Buffalo Sabres defenseman Christian Ehrhoff will be spending the NHL lockout playing in his native Germany.
Ehrhoff reached an agreement on Tuesday to play for his hometown team, the Krefeld Penguins, and was then introduced during a news conference. The deal was reached after the German Ice Hockey League team agreed to pay about $26,000 a month to insure the player in the event of injury.
”I really wanted to come to Krefeld because I was here during the summer and I felt at home,” Ehrhoff said in German and translated into English. ”The club is in my heart.”
He spent part of the summer working out with Krefeld before returning to Buffalo in the event a looming labor dispute wouldn’t disrupt the start of training camp, which was scheduled to open this week. Ehrhoff then traveled back to Germany after the NHL locked out its players on Sunday.
”It’s the ideal situation for the team and me,” Ehrhoff said. ”The guys know me, I know the guys.”
Ehrhoff was traded twice in the span of two days in June 2011 before he elected to forgo testing free agency by signing a 10-year, $40 million contract with the Sabres. Buffalo had acquired him in a trade with the Islanders, a day after New York landed Ehrhoff in a trade with Vancouver in hopes to sign the defenseman.
Ehrhoff was the Sabres’ most dependable defenseman last season. He led Buffalo blue-liners with 32 points (five goals) in 66 games, and led the entire team in averaging 23:03 ice-time per game.
The player’s agent, Richard Curran, said his client elected to play in Germany as an opportunity to stay in shape. Ehrhoff isn’t under contract with Krefeld, and will be eligible to return to play for the Sabres once the labor dispute is resolved.
The only condition to play in Germany was for the club to pay for Ehrhoff’s insurance, Curran said.
”He’s hoping to turn a negative into a positive,” Curran said.
Ehrhoff is expected to make his debut with Krefeld on Friday, when the Penguins play Hamburg.
”We always hoped that he would come back to Krefeld someday,” team chairman Wolfgang Schulz said. ”We didn’t think it would happen so quickly. He could have played in Russia, Sweden or Finland. It makes us proud that he chose us.”