Sunday, July 20, 2014

Tyler Ennis at 5 years? Fine by me.

Reprinted with permission from

The Buffalo Sabres announced that they have re-signed forward Tyler Ennis to a multi-year contract.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed but the NHL Network's Kevin Weekes was first to report yesterday that the deal was a five-year deal worth around $23M, which is just about right for Ennis.

Despite his diminutive (5'9", 169 lbs,) Ennis has been able to produce over his career.

In 267 NHL games he has 67 goals and 166 points and in his two seasons of 80-plus games he's hit the 20-goal mark both times. Last year he has a career high 21 goals.

Ennis has also appeared in 13 playoff games registering three goals, none bigger then his overtime winner at the Philadelphia Flyers in Game-5.

In overtime, Ennis got behind the Flyers defense and pounced on a juicy rebound left by goalie Michael Leighton and the Sabres were headed back to Buffalo with a 3-2 series lead.

A quick aside, recently inked defenseman Andrej Meszaros was on the ice for that goal against.

Former Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff accurately called Ennis "greazy" as the slick, speedy forward almost always seems to be able to slide out of tight situations.

Buffalo is on it's third coach in just over a year and present bench boss Ted Nolan seems to be tuned in to what Ennis has and what he brings to the table. After being shackled by the X's and O's of previous coach Ron Rolston, Nolan said of Ennis, "To … say, ‘You have to be at this place’ is limiting his ability. We kind of took the reigns off."

To which Ennis responded, “That’s the biggest thing. I don’t have to think,” said Ennis last year. “I’m a little more instinctive." It a mindset which plays to his strengths.

Another thing that's helped him along is the move to center.

Since he's come into the league Ennis has be bouncing around from wing to center. Ruff had said on many occasions that center is the best spot as Ennis has much more room to maneuver. Unfortunately there was no room down the middle on the scoring lines so Ruff had him on the wing. Nolan seems to agree as Ennis spent the majority of his time at center.

Stats geeks will use various numbers concerning the 24 yr. old veteran of four NHL seasons, pointing out Ennis' numerical shortcomings.

The stats may point to an average player, but anyone who's ever watched him knows that he's a highly skilled player with deft stick work who's battling through the inconsistencies of youth.

His team worst minus-25 rating last season accurately point out that the kid needs to become more defensively responsible, which is something Nolan pointed out as well.

But there is much more going on than just number.

Ennis has jam. And GM Tim Murray took notice.

Murray has been constantly pointing to the LA Kings as a team to look at as a model. He points out their sheer size and has backed that up by acquiring big players who play the game "heavy."

Yet, back in June when asked about Ennis and what he thought about re-signing him Murray said simply, "I like the player. I like his approach to the game. I like his compete-level. I like his speed. There's a lot of things I like about him."

Murray backed that up with a $4.6M cap hit over the next five seasons for Ennis. He will be the third highest paid player on the roster right now behind Tyler Myers and Matt Moulson.

Ennis was drafted with the 26th pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. That pick was acquired from the San Jose' Sharks along with Steve Bernier in the Brian Campbell deal. The Sabres also sent a seventh round pick to the Sharks.

He was the second of the Sabres first round picks that year, the other being Myers (12th overall.)

Both players were rookies of the year in 2010--Myers won the Calder Trophy in the NHL while Ennis won the "Red" Garrett Award in the AHL.

Since then they have both displayed youthful inconsistencies while finding their proper place in the NHL. Yet they both seemed to have found themselves under the guidance of Nolan.

Although he's not the "heavy" player that Murray seems to lean towards, Ennis has shown the competitive edge that they look for. He has chutzpah, works hard and he's a winner.

If Murray and Co. are willing to go five years on him at that price, that's fine by me.

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