Throughout all of the hype surrounding whether or not the Devils will bolster the defense before the trade deadline, one of the names that's been constantly thrown around as a potential addition is actually quite familiar to most Devils fans. Johnny Oduya, besides having one of the coolest names in hockey, played four solid seasons of D in New Jersey before being sent to Atlanta (R.I.P.) in the infamous Ilya Kovalchuk trade. Now in Winnipeg, and slated to become an unrestricted free agent following the completion of this season, Oduya's name has been tossed around recently as someone who is in Lou's crosshairs this trade deadline.
Because of this, I've spent some time recently pondering whether or not I'd want to see Oduya back as a Devil. Devils fans have mixed reactions to how Oduya performed during his tenure in NJ. I personally felt he fit in nicely but was obviously nothing exceptional. Unfortunately for Oduya, however, is that you just can't look at the defense corps for Winnipeg without also coming across another Swede with former ties to Kovalchuk, Tobias Enstrom.
Tobias Enstrom, in my opinion, has the talent and capability to fulfill the Devils most glaring need: an offensive minded, puck-moving defenseman. Currently making $3,750,000 against the cap, Enstrom is slated to become a UFA following next season.
During the past 4 seasons, Enstrom's numbers are as follows:
2007-2008: G- 5 A- 33 +/-: -5
2008-2009: G- 5 A- 27 +/-: +14
2009-2010: G- 6 A- 44 +/-: -5
2010-2011: G- 10 A- 41 +/-: -10 (72 games played, selected to All Star Game)
Enstrom's offensive numbers are consistently great and his +/- should be discounted because it was accumulated while playing for an awful Thrashers team. Additionally, Enstrom possesses another critical characteristic that separates him from the rest of the pack, familiarity with Ilya Kovalchuk. Highlight clips from Kovalchuk's days in Atlanta will show you that Kovy scored an insane amount of one-timer slap shot goals from his power play office at the point. The man responsible for feeding Kovalchuk many of these perfect passes? None other than Tobias Enstrom.
So, aside from being an All-Star play-making defenseman capable of either starting or joining in on the offensive rush, Tobias is also a nifty passer with an established familiarity and proven comfortability with Kovalchuk on the powerplay.
Also important to consider is that his best season out of those listed above was the All-Star campaign he had last year, which obviously occurred without Kovalchuk but rather with newfound chemistry Enstrom developed with his defensive partner Dustin Byfuglien. Many hockey fans are aware of the incredible breakout season Byfuglien had as a new D-man last year, but fewer are aware of just how much Enstrom actually contributed to making those results possible.
For me, the benefits associated with Enstrom wearing a Devils jersey are glaring. Our recent acquisitions of Ponikarovsky and Bernier have helped muster together a level of offensive scoring depth previously inexistent in our lineup. The Calder worthy rookie season from Adam Henrique and the eventual return of Travis Zajac increase our depth even further. I think we have no bigger weakness than the lack of a proven playmaking defensive commodity. Foster has been nice to utilize for his blast from the point, but it's becoming increasingly harder to watch him in any role other than that of a power play specialist.
With all that in mind, the next logical question to ask is, what exactly what it take to snatch Tobias Enstrom away from the Jets? And is he even available for trade?
Because this is all speculation and for fun, let's assume that Enstrom is indeed on Winnipeg's trading block this season, given it's for the right price. So, what is the right price? What would you, as an ILWT GM, feel is a legitimate offer to send Winnipeg's way this season in return for receiving Enstrom at the deadline?
My initial thoughts are below. Please let me know yours in the comments!
To New Jersey: Tobias Enstrom (signed @ $3,750,000 until UFA in 2013-2014)
This is my first time ever doing this and it's a lot harder than I thought. I really wanted to send back an everyday NHL defenseman to Winnipeg but couldn't because it would have to be either Volchenkov, Tallinder, or Greene. Salvador+something else was my first wish but Bryce is scheduled to become a UFA after this season. Volchenkov has a NTC or NMC, and Tallinder is injured. Truthfully I wouldn't hesitate for a second to trade Tallinder for Enstrom straight up but I doubt Winnipeg would ever do it. Maybe a healthy Tallinder + a draft pick.
If this was something Winnipeg was at all interested in, I think the Devils could live with giving away Josefson and Urbom. Josefson could serve the role of an every-day NHL player ready to step into the lineup right away. He could benefit Winnipeg by bringing a more defensively responsible game along with him which will open doors for their one-way scoring players and alleviate some pressure from a team that lets in a TON of goals. The Devils could survive without him by using Carter on the fourth line. Winnipeg is also not likely to make the playoffs this year. They've played more games than anyone else in the Eastern Conference and are still tied in points with Toronto and seated in 9th place with a hot Tampa team climbing back into the race with games at hand. With that in mind, Winnipeg might be willing to think youth and thus be able to use and benefit from Urbom more than we could anytime soon.