BUFFALO, N.Y. – Ryan Miller finally has some backup in Buffalo.
Impressed with how Jhonas Enroth capably filled in for an injured Miller at the end of last season, the Sabres rewarded their top goalie prospect by re-signing him to a two-year contract on Thursday.
Enroth earned what’s anticipated to be a significant bump to his US$685,000 salary last season. He was an restricted free agent, whose rights had been retained by the Sabres when they tendered him a contract earlier this month.
General manager Darcy Regier described the signing as being “both important and good.”
Though the deal was agreed to a day after former backup Patrick Lalime announced his retirement, Regier made clear that Enroth had already been pegged as the heir apparent for the No. 2 job based on his performance last year.
Enroth posted a 9-2-2 record, including a shutout, and a 2.73 goals-against average in 14 games. He was particularly effective in going 3-0-1 in place of Miller in helping the Sabres clinch a playoff berth in the final week of the season.
“The fact that he came in and played the way he played, had the record he had with Ryan being injured, it really gave us a lot of confidence in him,” Regier said.
Selected in the second round of the 2006 draft, the native of Sweden had spent much of the past three seasons in the minors.
Overall, Enroth has a 9-3-2 career record. He also became the first NHL goalie to win his first three career games in shootouts, starting with a 3-2 victory against Montreal on Feb. 15.
Enroth’s contract leaves the Sabres with only one player unsigned, restricted free agent defenceman Marc-Andre Gragnani.
Aside from focusing on talks with Gragnani, Regier said he’s also now turning his attention to trim the team’s payroll.
Prior to Enroth’s signing, the Sabres were already about US$2.5 million over the NHL’s $64.3 million salary cap. Though teams are allowed to spend as much as 10 per cent above the cap in the off-season, they are all required to be at or below the cap once the season begins.
Regier said his first option to cut payroll will be through the trade market.