The Toronto Maple Leafs have placed Jhonas Enroth on waivers as of noon Monday.
We’ve talked a lot here about Enroth’s struggles early in the season as well as the possibility of the Leafs replacing their backup goaltender before long, including in our recent first-quarter review of the Leaf goaltenders:
Playing your way out of a funk as a backup goaltender can be tough when the starts are sparse and only come in back-to-back situations, but spot duty is part of the job description and Enroth hasn’t made enough saves. The Leafs are 0-4-1 as the tired team so far this season, with Enroth starting four of the five. Some lame efforts from the team in front of him has played its part, but Enroth is 51st of 54 in save percentage among NHL goalies with five or more games played (.872).
While he managed to regain his composure in the final two periods in Calgary, giving up three in the first period to the 29th-best offence felt like rock bottom. It’s been pointed out many times over that Karri Ramo has been lurking in the background, taking part in Leafs practices while rehabbing his knee. The fact that Enroth is the smallest goalie in the league at 70 inches and 175 pounds likely doesn’t buy him any extra leeway from a coach that heavily favours size at the position.
Enroth’s career numbers — particularly his quality start percentage, which is a measure of how often a goaltender provides league average or better goaltending — looked promising coming into the year. Leafs management also liked that Enroth readily accepted his role as a backup goalie as opposed to one intent on splitting starts or wrestling the crease away from newly-appointed number-one Frederik Andersen. There is certainly no concern about that 23 games into the season, but there might be competition for number two on the goalie depth chart before long if Enroth’s slump lasts much longer.
Making this move this soon is a little unforgiving; four starts isn’t a significant sample size and all four have come on the road — where the Leafs have struggled in general — with the Leafs playing tired in back-to-back situations.
But the trust level had clearly waned just two games into Enroth’s season when Mike Babcock went with Frederik Andersen two nights in a row versus Philadelphia and Pittsburgh on November 11 and 12. As mentioned above, Enroth is 51st of 54 in save percentage among NHL goalies with five or more games played (.872). He has yet to give the Leafs a “quality start” — defined as a game in which he provided league average or above goaltending.
Jhonas Enroth’s Starts — 2016-17 Season
Babcock says Enroth wasn't playing well enough
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) December 5, 2016
In placing him on waivers, the Maple Leafs are floating Enroth out on the wire to see if there is any interest in his services around the league. Currently at 48 Standard Player Contracts without including Jared Cowen, the Leafs would like to have Enroth’s contract off the books before they add another SPC in the form of a new backup goaltender, be it Karri Ramo or someone else.
I'm told that Karri Ramo is close to getting medical clearance from his knee rehab.
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) December 5, 2016
The schedule will afford the Leafs some time to figure out the way forward at the backup position; they play just once during the week, against Minnesota on Wednesday. They will need to have the situation sorted in time for the stretch of five games in eight nights that will follow, which includes a back-to-back against Boston and Colorado this weekend.