The fact that Buffalo Sabres restricted free agent forward Tyler Ennis remains unsigned at this point in the off-season seems to be cause for concern amongst some.
Not sure why at this point. With the NHL and the NHLPA negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement, uncertainty with future contracts remains up in the air.
Speculation is building with each passing day, though. It's been suggested that Ennis, thought to be the key ingredient in a trade for Bobby Ryan, isn't being signed because he will be traded to Anaheim, even though Buffalo GM Darcy Regier has said that Ennis in that scenario is a non-starter.
Another avenue for speculation is that Ennis and his agent are holding out for Matt Duchene-type dollars. The 21 yr. old Duchene is a former first round pick for Colorado (3rd overall, 2009) and a legitimate top-six center who's been at that position all three seasons he's been in the NHL.
Comparing Ennis (#26 overall, 2008,) a 22 yr. old forward who started out on the wing and played roughly 25 games at the pivot last season, to Duchene borders on heresy for some. "Ennis is not Duchene. There's no way he should look for anything near $3.5M per season" they say and conclude that the "greazy" forward who hasn't proven anything yet at center should get no more than $2.5M per season.
As mentioned previously, were it not for the incredible run that Ennis and his linemates had the last quarter of the season, he'd probaby be looking at a 2yr./$4M contract, slightly above the one that linemate Drew Stafford signed a few years ago.
In defense of Ennis, a little statistical comparison of he and Duchene was put together. Maybe it's even something his agent is pointing out while negotiating with Regier.
Duchene: 219 games, 65 goals (.296 g/gm,) 85 assists, 150 points (.684 p/gm)
Ennis: 140 games, 38 goals (.271 g/gm,) 54 assists, 92 points (.657 p/gm)
Duchene: 18 goals (27.6% of total goals scored,) 27 assists (31.7%,) 45 points (30%)
Ennis: 7 goals (18.4%,) assists 14 (25.9%,) 21 points (22.8%)
Duchene: Career minus-18
Ennis: Career plus-12
Duchene: 6 games, 0 goals, 3 assists, 3 points (.500 p/gm,) minus 2
Ennis: 13 games, 3 goals, 5 assists, 8 points (.615 p/gm,) plus-5
Both have comparable stats in goals/game and points/game, but one of the distinguishing factors in Duchene's slightly higher production is powerplay points. Duchene gets top-unit powerplay time while Ennis was relegated to second-unit duty.
That fact also affects the plus/minus for both players, a whopping 30-point difference in favor of Ennis.
It should also be noted that Duchene has yet to score a playoff goal. Ennis, in his first playoff action had a goal and three assists in his first playoff series (6 games.) He also scored the game winner in overtime at Philadelphia in a crucial Game-5 win over the Flyers two years ago.
And, once again, there's a marked difference in plus/minus as Ennis remains well ahead of Duchene in that stat.
Last season's stretch run for Ennis and his linemates, Stafford and Marcus Foligno, was nothing short of a revelation. But whether it was an aberration or not remains to be seen.
Will Ennis continue to thrive at center? Will that line produce consistently? Can Ennis continue to be looked upon as a legit top-six forward with plenty of upside?
That's what the two sides are discussing.
And it would seem, based upon the numbers above, that it'll cost the team upwards of $3m per season, maybe $10M over three years, for the team to find out.
Tyler Ennis' overtime game winner at Philly.
Ennis re-ups with a 2-yr./$5.6M deal on lockout day, 9-15-12