BUFFALO, N.Y. – Jhonas Enroth was more excited Thursday to have his old job back as the Sabres No. 2 goalie than speculate about Ryan Miller’s uncertain status in Buffalo.
“Who knows what’s going to happen. I try not to worry too much about that right now,” Enroth said. “Ryan’s still here, and it’s still Ryan’s team.”
For now, at least.
Unsure whether they will be forced to trade Miller before his contract expires after next season, the Sabres hedged their bets by re-signing Enroth to a two-year extension.
Enroth, who was a restricted free agent, returns for a fourth season in Buffalo. With a 21-18-10 record and three shutouts in 53 career games as Miller’s backup, Enroth is coming off a solid spring during which he showed potential of becoming a bona fide starter.
After closing the Sabres season going 4-1-1 in six starts, Enroth led Sweden to the World Ice Hockey championship on his home ice. He posted a 1.15 goals-against average and a 95.6 save percentage en route to being named the tournament’s top goalie.
It was a breakthrough performance for Enroth, the Sabres’ second-round pick in the 2006 draft. It was one that impressed the Sabres in believing the 26-year-old goalie can carry a bigger load in the NHL.
“Given Jhonas’ age, his experience, what he’s been through, he’s in a great position to really advance his career at this point,” general manager Darcy Regier said. “(He’s convinced) me that at some point in his career that he’s going to be a No. 1 goalie. I think people look at him differently now.”
After opening his career with a 17-6-3 record, Enroth hit a lengthy rough patch. He went 0-10-3 over a two-season stretch, before stopping 32 shots in a 3-1 win over the New York Rangers on March 13.
Enroth said the past three months have boosted his confidence.
“I think I proved to myself that I really can play at a high level,” he said. “So I feel I can get a little bit more of a workload.”
There’s a possibility that opportunity might come sooner than later.
The Sabres are in the midst of overhauling their roster after missing the playoffs for a second consecutive season and for the fourth time in six years.
Both Regier and Sabres owner Terry Pegula have expressed their desire to re-sign Miller to a long-term contract. Both, however, have also noted the goalie will have a say on whether he wants to stay in Buffalo or test free agency next summer.
Should Miller elect to bolt, the Sabres would prefer to trade him before then to get some value in return.
Miller is open to staying in Buffalo, but also aware the team has to determine whether he fits in their rebuilding plans. Leading scorer, forward Thomas Vanek, is in the same situation as Miller.
Regier said very little has changed regarding Miller’s status after he had discussions with the player’s agent last week. He also intends to meet with Vanek’s agent during the NHL draft next week in New Jersey.
“They’re exploring their options, and part of that is predicated on what we do organizationally,” said Regier, who added that neither player has ruled out the possibility of re-signing with the Sabres.
NOTES: Regier said he has hit a roadblock in his desire to acquire one of the top three picks in the draft. Based on conversations he has had with fellow GMs, Regier said the teams at the top of the draft are intent on keeping their selections. … The Sabres have two first-round picks—Nos. 8 and 16—and 10 selections overall in the draft on June 30. … Regier said the team has had preliminary negotiations to re-sign C Cody Hodgson, a restricted free agent.