The Buffalo Sabres have made a long-term commitment to one of the players who will help carry them through a rebuilding process. Tyler Ennis signed a five-year deal reportedly worth $23 million according to Kevin Weekes of NHL Network.
The two-time 20-goal man is coming off a two-year bridge deal with an annual average of $2.8 million. Under his new deal, he'll carry a $4.6 million cap hit, which is the third-highest mark on the team behind only Tyler Myers and free agent acquisition Matt Moulson.
Ennis had 43 points -- including 21 goals -- in last year's tumultuous season that saw the Sabres end with the league's worst record. The 24-year-old forward averaged over 18 minutes of ice time and was one of the Sabres' more effective players on the power play.
Ennis has 166 points in 267 career NHL games, all with the Sabres.
With Ennis probably locked up on a long-term deal, he'll join Matt Moulson, Tyler Myers and Cody Hodgson under contract through the 2018-19 season. With an influx of high draft picks coming into the fray, the Sabres have a core group of players that they want to see through this rebuilding process and it appears Ennis is going to be a part of that group.
If Tim Murray, who is off to a rather successful start in his first stint as a general manager, is able to continually rebuild a roster from the smoldering shell of the team that was left in last season's wake, these guys will still be there when the team is competitive again.
There is a lot to do and it very well could take all five years before the Sabres are reaching contention. There's no definite timeline, but with the maneuvering from Murray so far, he's not looking to put together a team that will be a basement dweller for the next few years.
Under the rising salary cap, Ennis' contract is not likely to become prohibitive for making future deals work. The club also doesn't have a single player with a cap hit greater than $5.5 million per season, which is likely to leave room for adding big-name players down the line in free agency, or to hand out long-term extensions if some of the younger guys on the team mature more rapidly.
A lot of what Buffalo is going to be able to accomplish in building a roster for long-term success is going to come from within. As a former first-round pick, Ennis is one of those homegrown products that apparently wants to be a part of the organization and help facilitate this rebuild. Those are the types of veterans the Sabres will need to have around in this less-than-optimal situation.
As high draft picks like Zemgus Girgensons, Mikhail Grigorenko, Rasmus Ristolainen, Nikita Zadorov and most recent pick Sam Reinhart mature (and they all have a good chance to be good players for the Sabres), the team just may be on to something special.
Keeping guys who have been in the Buffalo system and have gone through the process in much the same fashion as Ennis is where the Sabres find extra value in this long-term deal to a home-grown player. There aren't many like Ennis left as the stars the franchise was previously built on like Ryan Miller, Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek have moved on.
There should be a fair amount of pressure on Ennis to make the most of this contract as he has yet to hit 50 points in his career. At 24 years old, however, this contract should last him through some of his prime seasons and the Sabres don't have to worry about losing him as an unrestricted free agent during the rebuilding process. All in all, this seems like a fair deal for both the player and a team that is working to keep some continuity at the same time as making a lot of alterations.