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.

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Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey has been involved in almost every aspect of the local sports scene for the last 40 years. He worked for WEBR Radio, the Buffalo Sabres' public relations department and The Buffalo News during that time. In that time he covered virtually every aspect of the area's sports world, from high schools to the Bills and Sabres and everything in between. Along the way, Budd served as a play-by-play announcer for the Bisons, an analyst for the Stallions, and a talk-show host. He won the National Lacrosse League's Tom Borrelli Award as the media personality of the year in 2011, and was a finalist for that same award in 2017. Budd's seventh and eighth books, one on the Transcontinental Railroad and the other about Ichiro Suzuki, are scheduled to be released in the fall.

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