Sabres General Manager Tim Murray has a pretty full plate these days. What to do about pending free agents Ryan Miller, Matt Moulson and Steve Ott is atop his list. What to do about the interim tag for head coach Ted Nolan is up there as well. As is the March 5th trade deadline and preparation for the all important June draft where the Sabres will likely have one of the top three selections.
Here's another item you can bet is somewhere on Murray's list, the future of Tyler Ennis. The 24 year old center is in the final year of a two year, $5.625 million contract and will be a restricted free agent.
Do the Sabres give Ennis a long term contract which would include keeping him from his first crack at unrestricted free agency when he turns 27? Do they go with a shorter team deal? If they're hesitant about handing Ennis a big contract, do they consider trading him?
Granted it was under a different General Manager but the Sabres gave then restricted free agent Cody Hodgson a six year, $25.5 million deal last September. Hodgson has 45 goals and 101 points in 177 games played in his NHL career.
Ennis' average numbers are similar. He's played in more games, 235 to be precise. He has 58 goals and 145 points.
The man who Nolan calls a "ball of energy" got off to a slow start this season but the coaching change seems to have brought out the best in him. In 20 games under Ron Rolston, Ennis had just two goals and six points. In 28 games with Nolan behind the bench, the former Medicine Hat Tiger has eight goals and 16 points. He has at least one point in 50% of the games played for Nolan after registering a point in just 20% of the games played with Rolston.
Ennis has been particularly strong of late, taking a five game points streak into tonight's contest with Carolina.
Nolan has rewarded Ennis by giving him more ice time. He recorded a season high and career best 25 minutes and 13 seconds in the game with Columbus this past weekend and his 23 minutes and 3 seconds against the Panthers on Tuesday was the third highest total of the season for the speedy center.
Ennis seems to have a good chemistry with Moulson and the line has been productive with different wingers like Zemgus Girgensons or, for the last three games, Drew Stafford.
Ennis certainly brings some electricity and dazzle dazzle to the ice with his stick handling, although there are times he holds on to the puck too long and gets himself into trouble but on a team lacking in offensive ability, Ennis has been bringing that on most nights. The question is how much is he worth and how important is he in the future plans for the Sabres? That remains to be seen.