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Jhonas Enroth photo by flickr.com/creative commons user bridgetds

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

According to the rather unverifiable rumor mill that is Twitter, suggestions of a Jhonas Enroth-to-Phoenix deal has floated.  The ‘Yotes, a day after trading the rights to #1 net-minder Ilya Bryzgalov to Philadelphia, want to fill their goaltending void and sit $28 million below the expected 2011-12 salary cap. 

It would behoove Phoenix to lock up Yandle, Boedker and Turris long-term, as all three are restricted free agents this summer.  Still, add a talented, starter-caliber goalie to the mix, and the future looks plenty promising. 

For the Sabres, dealing Enroth, a restricted free agent, would be a bold move.  Buffalo’s spoils in the deal may start with Viktor Tikhonov, a 23-year-old winger with plus size and second-line upside, according to Twitter source Frank Krulicki (@krufrank) and the Hockey’s Future database.

The important thing here isn’t to debate the details of a feebly-rumored, incredibly-unlikely-to-happen trade—that’d be a prime time-waste—but to consider the proper way to handle Enroth.  From Pegula to Ruff, the Sabres organization must firmly decide on a path for Buffalo’s 22-year-old backup, particularly now that he’s in need of a new contract.  Would he even agree to a three or four year deal at backup money, or does he believe his impressive 14 game cameo in 2011 should warrant a starter’s job and pay?

Since Martin Biron donned a Sabres’ uniform, the organization has been bereft of a reliable backup, forcing Ryan Miller to start 135 games over the last two seasons.  As The Buffalo News has stated repeatedly, Patrick Lalime’s role is more of a mentor and assistant coach than a serviceable option between the pipes. 

Why would the Sabres, who’ve been bemoaning the fact that the roster’s lacked a capable backup, quickly trade an “asset?”  Or, with Enroth’s trade value potentially at its peak—he excelled with a small sample size—wouldn’t it make sense to sell-high and ride Miller through the end of his contract in 2013-14?  Buffalo must act quickly, though, as their negotiating period with RFAs looks increasingly crucial.  If Enroth hits the market, the Sabres could be stuck matching a lucrative deal.

We’re a little torn, but in the end, it’s best to keep Enroth.  Boston’s luxury of flipping between Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask has kept both players sharp and allowed Thomas to flourish in the postseason, just as a red-hot Rask had carried the Bruins last year.  While Enroth would certainly make sense to Phoenix as a building block, Pegula should lock him up at the rate of an elite backup (Rask makes $1.25 million a year, to set a barometer).

TAGGED: buffalo sabres, hockey, jhonas enroth, nhl buffalo, phoenix enroth trade

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