After the Winnipeg Jets announced yesterday that Toby Enstrom underwent knee surgery and would be out for the rest of the year, it ended what has been a very disappointing season. The former 50-point defenseman had just 14 this year, easily the lowest number of his career. Broken up by a concussion and personal issues, 2016-17 has been one to forget for the 32-year old.
Next season, he’ll head into the last year of his current five-year contract likely passed by Josh Morrissey among Jets’ defenders and perhaps even the newly signed Tucker Poolman as well. His $5.75MM cap hit is hard for the Jets to swallow if he can’t get back to his previous performance, but it’s something else that may cost Winnipeg even more.
Enstrom’s contract includes a no-movement clause, meaning he’ll require automatic protection in the upcoming expansion draft should he not agree to waive it. Dustin Byfuglien also has an NMC, and Jacob Trouba and Tyler Myers clearly need protection. That would force the Jets into the eight skater option, leaving several good players available for Vegas to choose.
Even if they decided to leave the rest of the defenders—losing one of Ben Chiarot, Julian Melchiori or Brenden Kichton wouldn’t cripple the team—that means they only have four slots for forwards. When you check off Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little as obvious choices, you then are left with the group of Mathieu Perreault, Adam Lowry, Marko Dano, Joel Armia and Andrew Copp available with the power to protect just one. Losing any of them without a fight would be painful, given the potential or performance they’ve shown so far.
Getting Enstrom to waive that NMC is crucial, as it would give three more spots to the Jets to keep their young forward group in tact. If he isn’t willing, it won’t be just his declining play that will leave a bad taste in the mouths of the Winnipeg faithful. For a player who has spent his whole career with a single franchise after they took a chance on him in the eighth round, he needs to do just one more thing for them—even if it does put him at risk of having to play in Vegas for a year.