By Budd Bailey, Buffalo Sports Page Columnnist
Ville Leino – Signed by the Sabres in 2011
It seemed like such a good idea at the time. Ville Leino was a free agent in the summer of 2011, having scored 53 points for the Flyers in 2010-11. The Sabres had been runners-up in the bidding for free agent Brad Richards, and Leino seemed like a good consolation prize. Besides, Buffalo had a new owner in Terry Pegula, who was anxious to make a splash. He coughed up $27 million for a six-year deal, much more than anyone else offered. Leino quickly agreed.
Everything turned back from there. Someone had the idea of moving Leino to center from left winger. He had played the position before, but didn’t do well at it. Leino slumped to 25 points in the 2011-12 season. The next year featured a lockout for the league and some serious injuries for Leino, as he only participated in eight games that season. And in 2013-14, Leino missed the start of the season and ended up with zero goals in 58 games. The Sabres were bad, and the fans made Leino a target. The forward had trouble even sleeping.
Mercifully, Leino accepted a compliance buyout from the Sabres that summer. He received his last yearly check for $1.2 million this past year. He played in Europe for a while, and then retired. Now he’s an artist and businessman in his native Finland. Ville is also the poster boy for the dangers of free agency from the Sabres’ perspective.
Follow Budd on Twitter @WDX2BB.