Enstrom bids farewell to NHL, signs to play with his old Swedish team

Veteran defenceman Toby Enstrom is heading home.

The longtime member of the Winnipeg Jets organization, an unrestricted free agent, has signed to play with Modo, a second-tier Swedish squad, according to media reports.

Enstrom’s five-year $28.75-million contract (AAV of $5.75 million) with Winnipeg expired on July 1.

Enstrom, who turns 34 in November, played five seasons with Modo (2002-07) before beginning his 11-year NHL career with the Atlanta Thrashers. The team plays out of Ornskoldvik, just 65 kilometres north of Nordingra, Enstrom’s birthplace.

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Veteran defenceman Toby Enstrom is heading home.

The longtime member of the Winnipeg Jets organization, an unrestricted free agent, has signed to play with Modo, a second-tier Swedish squad, according to media reports.

Enstrom’s five-year $28.75-million contract (AAV of $5.75 million) with Winnipeg expired on July 1.

Enstrom, who turns 34 in November, played five seasons with Modo (2002-07) before beginning his 11-year NHL career with the Atlanta Thrashers. The team plays out of Ornskoldvik, just 65 kilometres north of Nordingra, Enstrom’s birthplace.

The oft-injured defenceman headed north from Atlanta to Winnipeg with the rest of the Thrashers in 2011 and suited up for 401 games with the Jets.

He played just 43 games last season and 11 more during the club’s tremendous post-season run that ended with a Western Conference Final series loss to the Vegas Golden Knights. The Jets have a lengthy list of NHL-calibre blue-liners, and it was clear the small but smooth-skating Enstrom was not in the Central Division team’s future plans.

Overall, Enstrom scored 54 goals and added 254 assists in 719 career NHL games.

Winnipeg is believed to be close to re-signing top left-shooting defenceman Josh Morrissey, and still has three veterans on that side; Dmitry Kulikov is under contract for two more seasons, Joe Morrow signed a new one-year deal earlier this summer and Ben Chiarot is still a year away from UFA status.

But a youngster down on the farm might turn out as the logical replacement for the puck-moving Enstrom.

Looking to make the jump to the big club is 21-year-old Finnish-born Sami Niku, who had a brilliant North American debut last year with the Manitoba Moose and was named the American Hockey League’s Outstanding Defenceman.

The offensively gifted blue-liner racked up 16 goals and 54 points with the Moose, and scored a goal in his NHL debut at the end of the season in Montreal.

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Assistant sports editor

Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).

Read full biography