Adding the right depth pieces will be key for Ken Holland in the coming weeks. The goal, in the GM’s own words, is to compete for and make the playoffs in 2020. In order to do that, he’ll need to add some value contracts to the forward ranks.
Tyler Ennis was in danger of losing his NHL career a year ago. Bought out after a miserable season in Minnesota, Ennis settled on a one-year deal with Toronto to prove his value. He scored 12 goals and proved that, in the right role, he can still contribute in this league.
Ennis will enter the free agent courting period on Sunday with more value than a year ago. He won’t break the bank, but could provide a team with 10-15 goals. What about his hometown Oilers, desperate for that kind of bottom-six production?
Why Is He Out There?:
Ennis elected to sign a one-year deal worth $650,000 with the Leafs last off-season. It was ideal for both sides, as Ennis got to go to a loaded team while the Leafs added a depth piece for league minimum. For a cap-strapped team like Toronto, this was the perfect way to fill the bottom of the roster.
Ennis reached double-digit goals for the first time since 2014-15 in Buffalo, and built his value back up to being a player teams will have interest in. The Leafs, backed against the cap, don’t have the spare money to give him much of a raise.
On top of that, Ennis is way down the list of priorities for a Toronto team working to re-sign Mitch Marner and improve their defense.
What Does He Do Well?:
Ennis is no longer an option for top-six ice time in the NHL, that needs to be stated right off the hop. What Ennis is now is a serviceable depth scorer that can contribute on a second powerplay unit and score about ten goals at even strength. He’s not a game-breaker, but he can help a team looking for goals.
Ennis isn’t the biggest player, just 5’9″ and 161 pounds. He does bring exceptional skating and speed to the table, however, and that will help the overall team speed of a group like Edmonton.
The thing that keeps Ennis in the league is his offensive ability. He’s not much of a two-way player and provides no use on the penalty kill. He’s got a good shot and strong playmaking ability, however, and has a high hockey IQ.
He appeared in 51 games for the Maple Leafs this past season, posting totals of 12-6-18. Ten of his 12 goals came at even strength, while the other two were scored with Toronto on the powerplay.
In terns of role, Ennis played in the bottom-six for the most part. He averaged just 9:56 per night in terms of ice time, and found himself as a healthy scratch from time to time.
Possession wise, Ennis struggled in 2018-19. He posted a Corsi-For percentage at five-on-five of just 46.6% on a strong Toronto team. He was a drag on his teammates, posting a -5.3% Rel. Not good.
All numbers via hockey-reference.
Here’s a look at Ennis’ scouting report via The Sports Forecaster.
Has excellent hockey sense and offensive instincts–he is a clever playmaker. Sneaky, he skates very well and is able to make plays at high speed. Is brave, feisty and leads by example. Can be used in a lot of different situations. Lacks both size and strength, so he is somewhat susceptible to injury. When he stops moving his feet, he is rendered ineffective. Because of his lack of size, he has trouble winning board battles from the wing position.
Long Range Potential: Diminutive scoring forward, when healthy.
Where Should He Play / Where Will He Play?:
Ennis is nothing more than a depth piece at this stage of his career. He can play the role of secondary scorer and can contribute on a second powerplay unit, but that’s about it. His possession numbers are poor and he no longer scores at a top-six clip. Ennis is best suited as a fourth liner with the ability to jump up and play with skill when needed.
In Edmonton, he’d be brought in to play a bottom-six role.
What Will He Cost?:
Ennis isn’t going to break the bank. In fact, I think it is likely he settles for another one-year deal. I could see Ennis getting a raise, but I don’t believe he breaks $1,000,000 on his next deal.
Don’t be shocked if Ennis doesn’t sign until mid-July either, he’s a depth free agent and won’t be at the forefront when the frenzy opens a week from Monday. A one-year deal worth $900,000 likely gets Ennis signed.
He’s also a candidate for a PTO in the fall.
Considering how cheap Ennis may be, he’s a worthwhile option for Holland and his scouts to explore. A 10-15 goal scorer worth less than a million would provide a lot of value to a team like Edmonton that is lacking offensive options. The Oil simply didn’t get enough goals from the bottom-six a season ago.
Ennis doesn’t do enough, in my opinion, to be considered a top option this summer. That said, he could provide exceptional value as a signing later in the summer and into training camp.
Holland and company absolutely should monitor his situation.