- Associated Press - Thursday, June 30, 2011

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - Once defenseman Christian Ehrhoff put his round of golf on hold to hear what the Buffalo Sabres had to offer, general manager Darcy Regier was confident he had a shot of signing the player before the start of the NHL’s free agency period.

The Sabres‘ gamble to acquire and then sign Ehrhoff in under two days paid off Thursday after the seven-year veteran signed a 10-year, $40 million contract, which will pay him $10 million this season. The terms of the deal were confirmed by two people familiar with the contract, who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because those details were not released by the Sabres.

The deal was struck a day before Ehrhoff was eligible to become a free agent. And it came a day after the Sabres gave up a fourth-round draft pick to acquire his rights from the New York Islanders.

And it didn’t matter to Regier that Ehrhoff had turned down an offer from the Islanders a day earlier after New York acquired him form Vancouver.

“As you know, it’s uncharacteristic for us to give up a fourth-round pick,” Regier said. “We just felt very strongly that if we could get to the player early that we would have the opportunity to sign him.”

That happened during a long-distance phone call with Ehrhoff, who was playing a round of golf in his native Germany.

“We offered to talk to him after,” Regier said. “But he wanted to stop and talk about it there.”

Ehrhoff then did his part by consulting with NHL players _ including fellow German and Sabres forward Jochen Hecht _ to get a feel for Buffalo and the Sabres under new owner Terry Pegula.

“I was very impressed,” Ehrhoff said, in a statement released by the team. “My goal is to win the Stanley Cup. And after the offer I received from Buffalo, I believe this is the best place to make it happen.”

Ehrhoff, who turns 29 next month, will receive $8 million in his second season followed by four years at $4 million, according to a person familiar with the deal. He’s due $3 million in 2017-18, with the contract owing him $1 million in each of his final three seasons.

Regier said the length of Ehrhoff’s contract was a necessity to relieve the cap hit, which averages out to $4 million.

Ehrhoff’s signing is the second major move the Sabres have completed in less than a week, and another sign of the influence Pegula has since purchasing the team in February. The Pennsylvania billionaire has made it no secret of his intention to transform the Sabres into a cup contender after they were bounced in the first round of the playoffs each of the past two years.

The Sabres began retooling last weekend, when they acquired defenseman Robyn Regehr and forward Ales Kotalik in a trade with Calgary.

Ehrhoff acknowledged he was aware of an impressed by Regehr’s decision to drop his no-trade clause to allow the trade to happen.

Ehrhoff made $3.4 million in the final year of his contract last year. He’s a puck-moving blue-liner who fits the Sabres‘ system.

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