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Inside the Sabres: Moulson, Leino duke it out for title of worst contract

What do Matt Moulson and Ville Leino have in common?

They are in the running for worst Buffalo Sabres contract since Terry Pegula became owner.

As fans know and Pegula's accountants can attest, a ridiculous amount of money has been wasted in Sabreland since 2011. The long and inglorious contract list features Moulson and the bought-out trio of Leino, Cody Hodgson and Christian Ehrhoff.

But which contract is the worst? It's really, really close.

First, the criteria:

* Eligible players must have received multiyear deals.

Andrej Meszaros was a $4.125 million bust, but at least he was only a one-year mistake.

* The contracts must have been signed by the Sabres.

Zach Bogosian ($5.14 million per season) and Dmitry Kulikov ($4.33 million) have earned a lot for doing little, but their deals were consummated elsewhere and acquired via trade.

After examining the stats and contracts of the 119 players who have suited up for Buffalo since Pegula took over, the debate over worst deal has been whittled to six finalists: Tyler Ennis, Tyler Myers, Ehrhoff, Hodgson, Leino and Moulson. Pegula agreed to pay $179 million to those six, none of whom provided adequate bang for the bucks.

Here are the results.

6. Tyler Ennis

Contract: Five years, $23 million signed by General Manager Tim Murray in July 2014.

Stats: 152 games, 28 goals, 42 assists, 70 points, minus-38 rating, 331 shots, 16:50 of ice time per game.

Things started fairly well. Ennis led the Sabres with 20 goals and 46 points in 2014-15. Unfortunately, multiple concussions crushed the left winger the following season, limiting him to 23 games.

Ennis played 51 games last season, recording just five goals and eight assists for a disappointing .25 points per game. He took 89 shots while skating just 12:50 per night.

The Sabres traded Ennis to Minnesota during the offseason. The Wild will cover the final two seasons of his deal, but Buffalo had already paid all $5 million in bonuses that Ennis was owed.

Inside the NHL: Homecoming beckons for Wild's Foligno and Ennis

5. Christian Ehrhoff

Contract: 10 years, $40 million signed by General Manager Darcy Regier in June 2011.

Stats: 192 games, 16 goals, 71 assists, 87 points, minus-23 rating, 399 shots, 23:55 of ice time per game.

Ehrhoff's 10-year deal lasted just three seasons. The Sabres bought out the defenseman in June 2014 and will pay him $857,143 per year through the 2027-28 season.

Ehrhoff at least produced. He led Buffalo's blue-liners each season while averaging a respectable 0.45 points per game. But Ehrhoff had no desire to be part of the Sabres' teardown and rebuild, so Murray took advantage of a compliance buyout offered by the NHL.

Ehrhoff was paid $22 million during his three seasons. The $12 million severance package allowed the Sabres to avoid the cap recapture penalty devised by the league for the 2013 collective bargaining agreement.

4. Cody Hodgson

Contract: Six years, $25.5 million signed by Regier in September 2013.

Stats: 150 games, 26 goals, 31 assists, 57 points, minus-54 rating, 309 shots, 15:23 of ice time per game.

During the final year of his entry-level contract (the lockout-shortened season of 2012-13), Hodgson was second on the Sabres with 15 goals and 34 points while playing all 48 games. There was debate over whether to sign Hodgson to a long-term extension or a short-term bridge deal.

Regier went big.

Hodgson led the Sabres with 24 assists and 44 points in 72 games during the first season of the contract. The wheels fell off in 2014-15.

Hodgson had six goals and seven assists in 78 games, a paltry point-per-game average of 0.17. His defense was non-existent (minus-28) and he skated just 12:50 per night.

Murray bought out the deal in June 2015. The Sabres caught a break. Hodgson was owed only one-third of his remaining $19 million salary rather than the typical two-thirds because he was under age 26. The Sabres are paying him $791,667 per year through 2022-23.

Hodgson has since been diagnosed with malignant hyperthermia. The genetic disorder, which can be triggered by prolonged physical activity, causes shortness of breath, blackouts and heart arrhythmia.

3. Tyler Myers

Contract: Seven years, $38.5 million signed by Regier in September 2011, though it didn't start until 2012-13.

Stats: 148 games, 16 goals, 27 assists, 43 points, minus-49 rating, 219 shots, 22:44 of ice time per game.

Myers showed promise after two seasons, so Regier signed the defenseman to an extension with one year remaining on Myers' entry-level deal. The defenseman's game promptly regressed.

The first year of Myers' contract is the worst single-season value in Buffalo's history. Though the lockout shortened the 2012-13 season, Myers still received a full $10 million signing bonus. He had three goals and eight points in 39 games while pocketing $11.17 million.

His statistics picked up slightly during the following two seasons with 13 goals and 45 points in 109 games. Murray traded Myers to Winnipeg in February 2015.

2. Matt Moulson

Contract: Five years, $25 million signed by Murray in July 2014.

Stats: 251 games, 35 goals, 59 assists, 94 points, minus-28 rating, 409 shots, 13:30 of ice time per game.

Moulson made a legitimate run for the top spot. He could eventually claim it. This has the potential to be the most unproductive season ever for a big-dollar player.

Moulson has no goals, no points, a minus-8 rating and eight shots in 12 games. The 34-year-old skates just 10:25 per night, ahead of only Nick Baptiste (8:02) and Jordan Nolan (9:06).

And that's when he plays. Moulson has been a healthy scratch in eight of Buffalo's opening 20 games. He's on pace to watch 33 games from the press box. He makes nearly $61,000 per game, so that would be more than $2 million to do nothing.

He's under contract for next season, too.

Signed when Murray needed to spend money just to get to the salary-cap floor, Moulson has at least had a few moments. He recorded 13 goals and 41 points in 2014-15 and scored 14 goals last season.

But that's not close to $5 million worth of production.

1. Ville Leino

Contract: Six years, $27 million signed by Regier in July 2011.

Stats: 137 games, 10 goals, 36 assists, 46 points, minus-18 rating, 127 shots, 15:17 of ice time per game.

Leino is the punch line yet again. He ekes out the title of worst contract by producing less per game than Moulson in goals (.14 to .07) and points (.37 to .34). Their respective raises tip the scale further.

Moulson signed after finishing a three-year, $9.4 million contract. Murray gave the winger a bump of $1.87 million per season. Leino had finished a two-year, $1.6 million contract. His raise from Regier and the Sabres was a whopping $3.7 million per season. He pocketed $9 million in bonuses during his first two years.

Leino's best season was his first, and it was not impressive. He had just eight goals, 25 points and 78 shots in 71 games.

His final season is infamous. In 2013-14, Leino failed to score in 58 games. He had 15 assists, a minus-16 rating and only 38 shots while skating 14:26 per night. Despite his ineffectiveness, he was scratched only eight times, a number Moulson could blow past by Thanksgiving.

The Sabres bought out Leino in June 2014 and are paying him $1.22 million a year through 2019-20. Each check is a reminder of the worst contract signed under Pegula … so far.

Ville Leino looks back at final year with Sabres as 'jail'

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