Sabres: Enroth, Neuvirth: Who Stays, Who Goes?


Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

This is the tale of two Buffalo Sabres backstops, Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth. Or at least it will be. First, here’s a brief back-story.

It’s been many, many years since the Sabres had to put a lot of thought into their goal-tending situation. It was the one position that team coaches and brass didn’t have to worry much about. Mostly, some combination of Ryan Miller, Martin Biron and Dominik Hasek had manned the crease from the early 1990’s till 2014.

But that was then, and this is now.

Next Tuesday the 50 year-old Hasek will watch his number rise to the rafters of the First Niagara Center. Biron is broadcasting hockey and Miller is two teams removed from Buffalo. After a quick layover in St. Louis, he now plies his trade in Vancouver, B.C.

Now on to present day. Last season Miller’s long-time apprentice Jhonas Enroth was, after a trade with the Capitals, joined by Capitals net-minder Michal Neuvirth in what has since become somewhat of an odd situation.

The Sabres find themselves trying to decide between two career backups of nearly identical age with similar stats who are both pending unrestricted free agents. To confuse the matter both are almost single-handedly (or double-handedly) keeping Buffalo in the all-important McEichel tank race that by all rights they should be leading by a country mile.

So, who do they sign and who do they keep?

Enroth and Neuvirth are both 26. They both have the exact career save percentage (.911). Neuvirth has a half-season’s worth of games more to his credit than does Enroth, whose total was kept down due to his long-tenured position of sitting behind the workhorse Miller.

Enroth is 5’10”, 166lbs; rather diminutive for a backstop in today’s NHL. Neuvirth is 6’1”, 209lb. Both were drafted in 2006. Enroth has been a Sabres the entire time, while Neuvirth is a newcomer who doesn’t care. Each possess the uncanny ability to regularly steal games by themselves with fantastic individual performances.

Both are trying to secure a starting job while suffering the handicap of facing more shots a night than Sonny Corleone did at that toll booth in The Godfather.

But the Sabres can’t keep them both. And with nothing but unproven youth and a potential bust behind them on the depth charts, they can’t afford to let them walk for nothing, either.

General Manager Tim Murray is said to favor bigger backstops, which wouldn’t bode well for Enroth. But Neuvirth isn’t Paul Bunyan either.

Whoever Murray deals, ideally it’d be to a team like Edmonton where either’s game-stealing ability will gather useless standings points and help the Sabres surpass the Oilers to secure 30th place. After all, Derek Roy can’t do it all for Edmonton by himself.

So again, who stays and who goes? Well, as stated Murray prefers bigger goaltenders. Too, he inherited Enroth versus acquiring Neuvirth himself. But he’s also already put his own huge stamp on this team and will continue to do so.

So my answer to the titular question is that I don’t believe any of of these things will be the deciding factor. I think it will be decided for Murray by whichever team calls him with the best offer for the guy they want. And that’ll be that.

Of course, there is one more way for me to offer up an opinion. But for that I’d need a quarter.