Should Pens Claim Christian Ehrhoff? by @BrianK_PI - PensInitiative | Pittsburgh Penguins Blog | Rumors | News

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Should Pens Claim Christian Ehrhoff? by @BrianK_PI

After being bought out by the Buffalo Sabres during the 2014 offseason, Christian Ehrhoff chose to sign a 1 year, $4 million contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins, presumably to chase a Stanley Cup and shoot for a more lucrative long term deal in free agency the following season. Unfortunately for Ehrhoff, he didn't have the best of seasons playing under Mike Johnston, and injury concerns led to him signing another 1 year deal, this time with the Los Angeles Kings for $1.5 million.

Today the Kings had decided that they've seen enough and placed Ehrhoff on waivers. In 40 GP this season, Ehrhoff had 2 goals and 9 assists along with a score-adjusted 54.8 CF%, which looks great until compared to the 57.2 SACF% his teammates have managed with him off the ice. The Kings managed only a 37.5 GF% with Ehrhoff on the ice, though a low 96.3 PDO and an abysmal 5.1 SH% team on-ice shooting percentage suggests a fair amount of bad luck with Ehrhoff out on the ice. There are reasons to believe that the dip in production are at least in part explained on factors outside of his control, but should the Penguins be interested in bringing Ehrhoff back?

On the plus side, assuming he falls to them in the waiver priority, acquiring Ehrhoff would cost no assets, and at a pro-rated $1.5 million cap hit the Penguins have the space to add him to the roster. If things don't work out, they have the ability to demote him to the AHL and gain an additional $950k in cap space, and they even have a chance of another team taking the contract off their hands on waivers. The Penguins would know as well or better than anyone out there the state of Ehrhoff's physical abilities, and while he never played under Mike Sullivan it's not difficult to imagine him being a better fit into what Sullivan is trying to do than what Mike Johnston did. The Penguins don't have a deep blue line, and adding Ehrhoff would add another mobile, puck moving element.

Of course, questions would remain exactly where Ehrhoff would fit into the lineup with a healthy roster. Letang, Maatta, and Dumoulin certainly would be assured of a place in the lineup. Ehrhoff would likely need to steal playing time away from Daley, Pouliot, or Lovejoy, and while each player has their weaknesses it's difficult to imagine Ehrhoff coming in and immediately forcing any of the three to the press box. Another problem is that, as the Penguins are surely well aware, Ehrhoff carries a lot of injury risk, and while he's managed to stay healthy this season there's no guarantee that will continue. A healthy Ehrhoff likely forces Ian Cole even further into the doghouse than he is right now, and would seem to force the team's hand on figuring out what to do with his contract, which runs for two more seasons at a $2.1 million AAV. While Cole had a great run at the end of the 2014-15 regular season playing with Rob Scuderi, he was ultimately traded by St Louis because they didn't see him being capable of handling top 4 minutes, and Cole's play this season has seemed to validate the Blues' belief that his ceiling was on the bottom pairing.

Ultimately, the Penguins should have enough knowledge of Ehrhoff from having him in the system last season to make an informed decision on whether claiming him will benefit the team. If they're able to snatch him off waivers, at the very least he would add defensive depth to a team that really shouldn't be looking to the rental market to shore up the blue line. Best case scenario is that he's able to rediscover his game playing in a more up tempo system, and even if things don't work out there's a very minimal amount lost on the Pens' part. Whether the team puts in a claim or not won't make or break the season, but it's certainly a low risk move that could address the team's depth without sacrificing future assets.

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