Ennis Signs as Sabres Begin to Scatter

At just under 12 hours prior to the expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and its players, and amidst a flurry of last minute signings across the NHL, the Buffalo Sabres announced on Saturday that they had signed centre Tyler Ennis to a new 2-year deal worth a total of $5,625,000. Ennis, who had waded through the summer as a restricted free agent, is now set to make $2,562,500 in year one, and $3,062,500 in year two, pending any changes to salaries and structures under a new CBA.

Tyler Ennis (Icon SMI)

According to CapGeek’s Cap Hit Comparables tool, this deal places Ennis (the 26th pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft) in the same range as other notable young forwards such as Kyle Okposo, Logan Couture, Chris Stewart and Michael Grabner, as well as some more established vets like Nikolai Kulemin, Frans Nielsen, Sean Bergenhaim, teammate Steve Ott, Radim Vrbata, Jussi Jokinen and Valtteri Filpulla. But while his salary is set for the next two years, the fact remains that there’s still much to be determined in terms of where Ennis fits on this scale production-wise, and what is value is long-term.

2009-10 20 BUF NHL 10 3 6 9 3 1 6 3 0 0 0 23 13.0 153 15:20
2010-11 21 BUF NHL 82 20 29 49 19 0 30 15 5 0 1 210 9.5 1285 15:40
2011-12 22 BUF NHL 48 15 19 34 13 11 14 13 2 0 1 82 18.3 776 16:10
Career     NHL 140 38 54 92 35 12 50 31 7 0 2 315 12.1 2214 15:49
Provided by Hockey-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/17/2012.

In taking a look at his numbers up to this point in his Sabres career, there’s clearly room for growth in terms of becoming the team’s number one centre, which is his clearly stated goal. According to Bill Hoppe of the Tonawanda News, Ennis believe he is ready to “explode“, adding the following:

That’s everyone’s goal or dream … to be a No. 1 center in the NHL. That’s what my goal is … I want more responsibility, (to) take on a bigger role and be the guy or one of the guys looked upon to really win games.

It would appear as though Sabres’ management feels that he has the potential to become that guy, as GM Darcy Regier had the following to say upon coming to this agreement with Ennis:

Tyler is a very important part of our offense and we are very happy to have him signed. He has progressed as a player over the past few seasons and we are excited to see his growth both as a person and professional in the years to come. (via http://sabres.nhl.com/)

The ‘years to come’ bit becomes a bit murky when you consider that the two parties were only able to agree on a 2-year deal at this point, meaning Ennis still has work to do in terms of actualizing his goals, and the team needs to see more before committing long-term. Whether that stage of the journey begins this year is yet to be determined, as no one seems to have any idea as to when he and his teammates will step on the ice next.

Along those lines, the Sabres also announced that several players are being loaned out to their AHL affiliate in Rochester, as well as to a couple teams in the CHL. Of note, forwards Luke Adam, Marcus Foligno, Zemgus Girgensons, Cody Hodgson, Corey Tropp, and defensemen  Brayden McNabb, Mark Pysyk have been assigned to the Rochester Americans, as well as goaltender Connor Knapp. The Sabres top pick in the 2012 Draft, Mikhail Grigorenko, has been sent back to the Quebec Ramparts of the QMJHL for a little more seasoning in the junior ranks, and as other veteran Sabres look to ply their trade in Europe (after enjoying this past weekend’s Bills game, of course), there will be no shortage of sites for Sabres fans to keep their eyes on while the First Niagara Center remains in the dark.

To date, it would appear as though only Christian Ehrhoff has made a firm commitment to play in Germany, but ESPN has put together this handy list to keep tabs on where NHL players have signed in Europe.

For now, the waiting game begins – we wait to see if a deal can be reached, and we wait to see where the rest of Buffalo’s finest may end up should the lockout continue to drag on. In the meantime, there will be no shortage of topic to broach in relation to the past, present and future of the club, so rest assured that the Sabres talk will continue around these parts.