Apr 8, 2014; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres defenseman Christian Ehrhoff (10) skates up ice with the puck against the Detroit Red Wings at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Christian Ehrhoff Will Make Pens' Fans Quickly Forget About Defensive Losses In Free Agency

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Inked to a one-year, $4 million deal, defenseman Christian Ehrhoff was the Pittsburgh Penguins’ biggest signing this past free agency frenzy.

While many probably anticipated new general manager Jim Rutherford to pursue a few prolific forwards to place in the top-six, after losing Jussi Jokinen, James Neal, and still having a vacancy at right wing for Sidney Crosby, instead, he opted to fill the voids lost by Deryk Engelland, Matt Niskanen, and Brooks Orpik‘s departures with Ehrhoff.

Although all three defensemen’s absences will be felt, due to Engelland’s versatility, Niskanen’s role last season, and Orpik’s history with the team, Ehrhoff has a unique talent from each of them wrapped into one player.

Ehrhoff, 32, has Engelland’s frame, Niskanen’s offensive productivity, and Orpik’s defensive style – only with a younger body. So, theoretically, is Pittsburgh going to miss all three defensemen? To some degree, yes. Yet, have they really lost anything? No. And frankly, owning Ehrhoff, as opposed to having those three blueliners, may be better for the Pens in the long run.

At first, when you discover Rutherford’s used the decapitated cap space to fork over $4 million next season for a blueliner, which Pittsburgh has plenty of in the minors ready to make the jump, you shake your head, because the signing doesn’t entirely make sense. On the other hand, if you’re analyzing it from the perspective that Ehrhoff may have been the best player on the market for the length and price they gave him, it’s a bargain.

Mar 9, 2014; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres defenseman Christian Ehrhoff (10) during the game against the Chicago Blackhawks at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Ehrhoff is an all-around, reliable defenseman, that just so happens to be a force on the offensive side as much as he is on the defensive. Not to mention, the guy’s an excellent power-play contributor.

Now that Ehrhoff is off the worst team in hockey (Buffalo), he’s probably licking his chops at this next season with Pittsburgh, considering the firepower the Penguins’ possess. And, given the length of his contract, you can bet Ehrhoff is as determined as ever to showcase high-end effectiveness. So, in time, this could be a brilliant move by Rutherford.

If you evaluate this past July’s market, Ehrhoff may very well have been the best talent. And I’m not just saying that because Pittsburgh signed him. There were a number of unnecessary contracts distributed to players who really didn’t deserve it. No available forward was worth it. I mean, for as much as I liked Engelland and what he brought to the Pens’ defensive corps, he’s not worth $2.9 million a season.

I suppose when you see three players, who’ve been such pivotal figures for the Penguins over recent years just vanish from the roster in the blink of an eye, you immediately think, “man, that’s a lot of talent up-and-gone.” Yet, with one signing, perhaps one that is under the radar, it could change the whole landscape and efficiency of a team.

Sometimes, fans get too attached to certain players because of how much they’ve meant to the organization, and that’s both a good and bad feelings. Good, because you value their contributions, and bad because you forget that it’s still a business.

It’s all business. And Ehrhoff, I guarantee, will become a fan favorite.

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