As has been predicted for seemingly weeks now, the Toronto Maple Leafs and goalie Jhonas Enroth have officially come to terms on a one-year deal. While Enroth is happy to find work and could see significant time with the Leafs, a quiet 2016 free agent market has claimed another victim, as Enroth signs for $750K after putting up excellent numbers as the backup for the Los Angeles Kings last year to the tune of $1.25MM.
Last season, Enroth joined the Kings, after a tumultuous time with the Buffalo Sabres finally came to an end, and in 16 appearances posted career-highs with a .922 save percentage and 2.17 goals against average. Going into this off-season, it was expected that his performance would lead to either an extension with the Kings or a promotion to a time-share with another team. Neither scenario panned out, and Enroth ended up waiting for either the Maple Leafs or another backup-needy team like the San Jose Sharks to come calling. In the end, the Leafs got Enroth, and on their own terms too, paying him half a million dollars less to have a more important roll: backing up Frederik Andersen in his first season in Toronto rather than simply giving Jonathan Quick a day of rest.
2016-17 will be a test for Enroth, as 13 low-pressure starts and three mop-up jobs with the Kings will not compare to what could be an upwards of 25 starts for Enroth against any and all competition, and potentially even more if Andersen struggles. In 2014-15, Enroth started 35 games for the Sabres before being traded to the Dallas Stars, and in that span had a save percentage of .903 and a GAA of 3.27. Those numbers will not fly in Toronto, a team that has had issues with goalie consistency for years. However, if he is able to replicate this past season’s performance, than the Maple Leafs will have a bargain on their hands. Another issue to take into account though is how this off-season has affected Enroth’s psyche. Often criticized for his small 5’10” stature and some problems with a perceived lack of confidence in net, Enroth has now seen the best efforts of his career in LA go unrewarded. If Enroth has accepted his fate as a career backup and is no longer striving to put up his best numbers and fight for a starting job next summer, the statistics will show it.
There is little risk in this deal for the Maple Leafs, as they spent a lot to get a starter that they trust in Andersen and have the promising Garret Sparks waiting in the wings, but still got a veteran backup coming off of a stellar season for less than $1MM. The storyline to follow in 2016-17 will not be Enroth’s performance for Toronto’s sake, but for his own. A second straight strong season will hopefully pay off, whether it be an extension in Toronto or a starter battle elsewhere, but struggles in net and in his own head could lead to another long off-season for Enroth next summer.