OPINION: Sabres free agent options: Tyler Ennis

The former Sabres forward has had a career renaissance in the last two years for the Maple Leafs, Senators, and Oilers

Who's ready for some nostalgia?

For our next free agent profile, let's take a look at another affordable, secondary scorer, that can help the Buffalo Sabres' middle-six. Oh, and that player just happens to be former 2008 first round pick of the Sabres, Tyler Ennis.

When NHL free agency opens on Oct. 9, Ennis could be a player the Sabres look to bring back.

The player:

Three years ago when the Sabres traded Ennis as a cap dump to the Minnesota Wild, he was an underperforming, overpaid, one-dimensional forward that couldn't stay healthy.

In his final two seasons with the Sabres in 2015-16 and 2016-17, Ennis played in just 74 total games and had just 16 points. He looked shot.

In his only season with the Wild, Ennis was able to stay healthy, but the production didn't return. In 2017-18, Ennis had just 22 points in 73 games for Minnesota.

After being bought out and with his career on the ropes, Ennis signed for the veteran minimum to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs..

Ennis was always a good driver of possession on the ice, but it took a career goal scoring season to get back on track.

In 51 games with the Maple Leafs, Ennis scored 12 goals, thanks to a career-high 18.5% shot rate. Those 12 goals might not sound like much, but in 51 games and while averaging 9:56 minutes per-night, it's actually a very good rate of goals per-60 minutes.

Despite the bounce back year in Toronto, last year was the year that makes me think Ennis can continue to be a good secondary scorer into his 30s.

Ennis signed a veteran minimum contract with the rebuilding Ottawa Senators. He saw a big uptick in usage to 14:43 minutes per-game. Ennis also played more on the power play in 61 games in Ottawa than he did in Toronto and Minnesota combined.

With the Senators, Ennis scored five power play goals, which was the third-highest mark in his career. He also had 23 points at even strength, which was his highest total in five years.

That success with the Senators led to the Edmonton Oilers trading a fifth round pick at the trade deadline to put Ennis in their top-six.

The player Ennis played the most with in Edmonton? Connor McDavid.

In 12 games, including the playoffs, Ennis had three goals and three assists. At the very least, he was able to keep up, playing with the best hockey player in the world.

The fit:

Ennis is an intriguing idea for a reunion with the Sabres. Not just because he makes sense on the ice, but he makes sense from a financial stand point as well.

On the ice, Ennis could be a cheap option to play on a second line with Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner. Similar to fellow free agent Mikael Granlund, Ennis possesses the playmaking ability that fits with two proven goal scorers.

We all know Ennis as a fast, creative, and dynamic player when he's at his best. The speed, from my eyes, has not gone away. Watching some of his games playing with two of the fastest players in hockey in McDavid and Andreas Athanasiou, Ennis did not look out of place.

Ennis could also fill a void left by trading Marcus Johansson away. The Sabres need a zone-entry man on the second power play unit, and Ennis could serve in that role, if the Sabres want Staal on the top unit.

The contract:

This maybe is the most realistic idea for the Sabres because Ennis should cost them almost nothing.

Ennis may not sign for the veteran minimum for a third year in a row, but it shouldn't cost more than $2 million on a one-year deal, and that could even be high.

If the Sabres decide they want Rasmus Ristolainen and Brandon Montour to continue to eat up minutes on their blueline and don't want to part with restricted free agents Sam Reinhart and Victor Olofsson, they won't have room for much more than an Ennis-type contract.

As someone that loved Ennis with the Sabres growing up (Yes, I'm that young. I'm sorry), this could bring back some of the feels that Sabres fans have lost.

It's not to the level of Jason Pominville coming back, but Ennis was a well-liked player that could provide some value, and would have Sabres fans feeling positive.

The team needs as much of that as they can get.

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