By Mike Harrington
Where does Tyler Ennis fit in with the Sabres now and in the future? Is a $4.6 million cap hit too high for him going forward for the next five years?
Interesting questions. We're here to try to provide answers.
General Manager Tim Murray acknowledged today that Ennis is the team's No. 1 center for this year, with the obvious caveat that we don't know what lies in the future (see McDavid, Connor)
"He's a part of the team," Murray said. "Is he a center, is he a winger? We've talked about that with his agent and where he fits. He fits somewhere on this team. I have to look down the road when I feel we're going to be a competitive team. Is he the No. 1 center on that team? He may not be. He may be this year and next year he may be a No. 2 left winger. It depends on what we bring in here, depends how we surround him. That's going to dictate how he fits."
Ennis had 21 goals and 22 assists last year for 43 points. He got a $23-million deal with the aforementioned cap hit of $4.6M. So courtesy of the folks at Capgeek, I got a picture of players who are comparable to Ennis cap-wise for 2014-15 and studied how they produced last year.
The list is as follows:
Scott Hartnell, Columbus $4.75M, 20-32-52 (w/Philadelphia)
Bryan Little, Winnipeg, $4.7M, 23-41-64
R.J. Umberger, Philadelphia, $4.6M, 18-16-34 (w/Columbus)
Max Pacioretty, Montreal $4.5M, 39-21-60
David Backes, St. Louis, $4.5M, 27-30-57
Brad Marchand, Boston $4.5M, 25-28-53
Teddy Purcell, Edmonton $4.5M, 12-30-42 (w/Tampa Bay)
Vinny Lecavalier, Philadelphia $4.5M, 20-17-37
Erik Cole, Dallas $4.5M, 16-13-29
Martin Erat, Arizona $4.5M, 3-26-29 (w/Phoenix-Washington)
Tomas Fleischmann, Florida $4.5M, 8-20-28
Alex Burrows, Vancouver $4.5M, 5-10-15
Brooks Laich, Washington, $4.5M, 8-7-15
Andrew Ladd, Winnipeg $4.4M, 23-31-54
So with Ennis still only 24 years old and his agent openly talking about 30-goal, 70-point seasons, it seems like it's a pretty reasonable deal for the Sabres. It's even more reasonable when you realize it's front-loaded, with Ennis getting $7.3 million this season and the contract scaling down to just $3.65 million in the last three years. Translation: It will be a very tradable contract down the road if the Sabres went to move a guy with a $4.6M cap hit who's not owed a lot of money.
"He had 21 goals this year on a not-very-good team playing as a No. 1 center getting the bad matchups," Murray said. "I thought considering his slow start -- that I wasn't here for and keep being told about -- that he had a pretty successful year individually. Hopefully that translates into having a better year with better players around him."