Jets Roster Analysis: What will the Jets do with Tobias Enstrom? (Part 2)
Free Agent Value
As mentioned, two of the biggest winners this past free agent period were Matt Carle and Jason Garrison. Carle received an annual cap hit of $6.0 million and Garrison took a hometown discount (he is from British Columbia) to reach an annual cap hit of $4.6 million. Of course, Ryan Suter, the best of these UFA defensemen, was handed an annual cap hit of $7.5 million. Suter’s former teammate, Shea Weber, soon thereafter signed an offer sheet with an annual cap hit of $7.8 million. Using Weber and Suter as “caps,” allows our analysis to take a more pointed approach.
Clearly no executive in the National Hockey League believes Enstrom to be of greater value to a hockey team than either Weber or Suter. While some may point to the extended term both of these players received as the reason for their reasonable cap hits, even so, executives would be foolish to pay over $7.5 million to a player of Enstrom’s quality.
With $7.5 million as the cap on Enstrom’s value for the purposes of this analysis, let’s now examine some comparable players to Enstrom.
You can bet Enstrom’s agent will look to Brian Campbell as one of his most useful comparables. Both players are left-handed shooting puck-moving defensemen who have some drawbacks defensively.
Here are Campbell’s numbers from the past three seasons:
Campbell saw his responsibilities increase last season in Florida when he was no longer stuck behind the dominant defensive pairing of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook in Chicago. Campbell excelled and registered arguably the best all around season of his career.
Another interesting comparable for Enstrom is that of Brent Burns. Burns is only a year younger than Enstrom and has been counted on to provide an offensive element to both the Wild and Sharks defensive corps.
Burns actually saw his responsibility take a step back last season. The former OHL forward played on a Sharks team with considerably more depth than his former Wild squad and the transition to a new system on the West coast was not as easy a transition as some believed he would have (including myself)
Matt Carle provides a very recent comparable. The former NCAA defenseman is the most recently signed of the three comparables listed and does have similarities in terms of the qualities he brings to the table—offensive skills and great skating ability.
Carle has been utilized in a fairly consistent manner over the past three seasons. He has logged between 18:00 and 19:00 minutes at even strength, between 2:18 and 2:38 on the power play and between 1:13 and 1:55 on the penalty kill. Chris Pronger did wonders for his career and confidence and Carle turned into a quality top-four NHL defenseman.
Now that we have broken down the statistics of the three comparables, let’s see how Enstrom stacks up against the bunch:
One could argue that Enstrom compares most favorably of the group, except for his lack of penalty killing utilization—however, one could argue that is more so a product of coaching and his possible overuse on the power play than anything else.
All four of the defensemen being analyzed are considered offensive defensemen. Here are there respective games played over the past three seasons (a nice gauge of reliability) and points-per-game over the entire period:
Here Enstrom once again shines. He has played the second most games of the listed players and has the highest points-per-game. It should be noted though, that Enstorm has played more power play time that his contemporaries, but it is not as if any of them have proven to be workhorse penalty killing defenseman either.
Further context is required if we are to gauge Enstrom’s value on the open market. Here are salaries and term of Campbell, Burns and Carle:
It has become clear that Enstrom’s representative probably will not accept anything less than $6.0 million per season. Actually, one should probably expect Enstrom’s representatives to seek a contract that carries a cap hit in the $6.3 to $6.5 million range. Sure it may sound high, but put in perspective to the rest of the NHL market, especially next season’s weak free agent class, and you find a demand that outweighs supply. That generally results in an inflationary environment that benefits the players above all else.
If the Winnipeg Jets hope to retain Tobias Enstrom’s services after next season, an offer of four years and $24 million may be the starting point of negotiations.
The question fans will debate for the next 11 months is whether or not he is worth it.