The Sabres came to terms with goaltender Jhonas Enroth today on a two-year contract that should finally cement the Sabres’ back-up goaltender position. With Enroth under contract the Sabres only have Marc-Andre Gragnani left to sign.
Enroth agreed to a two-year $1.35 million deal, good for $675,000 a season. A very manageable cap hit that makes the player and contrcat attractive for a potential trade. This was another one of those no-brainer extensions for Darcy Regier. Rather than ride out one season on a qualifying offer, Regier wisely extended the goaltender for an additional year. The same can be said about the Mike Weber extension. This contract will allow Enroth to develop further at the NHL level and maybe even turn into a major asset on the trade market. It is a win-win.
What interests me about this is the fact that Enroth’s contract will expire in the summer of 2012-13, just prior to Ryan Miller’s contract year. Miller will be 34, going on 35, and won’t see a deal longer than four years. Now, these next few seasons are right in Miller’s go-zone. From now (31 years old) until his 36th birthday (give or take), will be the time that Miller is truly effective as a #1 goalie. Obviously the Sabres have hitched their wagon to his horse, what his next contract will be? No one can be sure.
The reason this is curious is because Enroth won’t be waiting around Buffalo any longer for the starting role. He will either have supplanted Miller, or will be looking for a big payday as a franchise goalie. Enroth knows it, Regier knows it, most of the other general managers know it too. The only two questions that remain are; will Enroth progress enough in the next two seasons to be considered a number one goalie? Also, what kind of return will he fetch at that point in time?
Remember, Ilya Bryzgalov was waived by the Anaheim Ducks so that he could latch on as a starter elsewhere. No return for Anaheim on that one. The most important part of this contract might just come when it has expired. Because, if Enroth’s rights still belong to Buffalo, there is a good chance the Sabres will see little to no return for the young Swede.
I know a lot of delusional Sabres fans are going to think that the Sabres should trade Ryan Miller for Steven Stamkos, straight up. After all, Miller is a choke artist and always lets in weak goals. Those same people will probably think Jhonas Enroth will be worth a first-round pick or a stud forward if the Sabres choose to trade him. I would say Enroth is worth a fairly talented prospect or a third-round pick today. I know a good source who said he was worth no more than a fourth at the end of the season. I think the ceiling on his trade value is going to peak at second-round pick and second or third line forward, at the most. Don’t expect to get Phil Kessel in return.
Enroth’s greatest value – on the trade market – will come in a package. The best example I could give right now would be moving him to Florida with one of Buffalo’s wingers in return for Stephen Weiss. I don’t think this trade would actually occur, I am just giving an example of how he would likely be used if the day comes that Darcy Regier wants to trade him. I also think he will be traded in the offseason. I am not a fan of moving goaltenders (even backups) in the middle of the year or at the deadline.
One other person who could really throw a wrench in the works is Connor Knapp. Next season he will be ready for the AHL. After the final year on Enroth’s contract, Knapp will have had a full season in the AHL and will likely be pushing for some time in the show. While that may not make Enroth more expendable, it does affect the next contract for Ryan Miller. If Knapp shows he has chops, and is able to develop at a steady rate, he will be well-groomed to take over for Miller in the next three or four seasons. I know it sounds like a long haul, but that is how goalies progress.
Nevertheless, the Sabres have cemented solid depth at yet another position with this contract. Enroth tops the goaltender pipeline quite well for the Sabres as they move forward this offseason.