Big bucks on Jets blueline

Tobias Enstrom celebrates a goal against the Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ont.,...

Tobias Enstrom celebrates a goal against the Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ont., Oct. 23, 2007. (MIKE CASSESE/Reuters)

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:00 AM ET

WINNIPEG - One day itís No. 33, Big Buff, making headlines for blowing only a .03, if his lawyer is to be believed.

The next itís Big Zach, as in Bogosian, signing a new, two-year deal, just under the wire.

Thatís a double-shot of good news for the Winnipeg Jets blue line this week.

Some 500 pounds of beef, worth close to $7 million this season, locked and loaded (no pun intended) for the opening of training camp on the weekend.

Actually, they shouldnít call it a blue line. Green, maybe. Or gold.

Because of the Jets entire payroll as it stands today (roughly $51 million), more than 40%, or $22.5 million, is playing defence.

So what do you get for $22.5 million these days?

ďIt seems like every defenceman we have is a pretty good skater,Ē Bogosian was saying the other day. ďWe donít really see too many guys taking dumb penalties, as far as holding or hooking.Ē

Bogosian didnít say anything about dumb boating charges, but we get the drift.

There are no slugs, here, particularly not the 6-foot-5, 280-pound (give or take) Dustin Byfuglien, the Jets marquee player ó even before he spent part of a night in jail a couple weeks back.

Their salaries arenít the only thing hefty about the Jets defence: the top seven average about 6-foot-2.

Just one doesnít stand at least six feet tall.

But that one, Tobias Enstrom, the little Swede, might just be the best of a big-bucks back end.

ďItís starts out with Toby and Buff, two all-star defencemen that are great players for us,Ē Bogosian said. ďTobyís so smart. Heís so little, but he seems to get it done out there, physically. Every once in a while a guy tries to take a run at him, but they canít get a piece of him because he rolls off.Ē

The 26-year-old Enstrom is 5-foot-10, which used to be a decent size for an NHL defenceman.

On this Winnipeg blue-line, heíll get lost in the crowd.

Back-to-back 50-point seasons, though, including a career-high 10 goals last year, have got him noticed around the league.

A star is born, perhaps?

ďNah, I donít know,Ē a chuckling Enstrom said. ďItís other people who can comment on that one. The numbers are really not that important. Itís fun to score goals and stuff like that, but as long as the team wins and is doing well, Iím happy. And as long as Iím happy, Iím playing good.Ē

Enstrom must have been a virtual clam in Atlanta, then, if only for half of last season, when the Thrashers were flying high.

The subsequent crash from a playoff spot seemed to coincide with Enstromís own hard landing ó he was minus-13 with just seven assists in his last 19 games.

ďA lot of guys had their first year last year, and that meant a lot for them,Ē Enstrom said. ďWe had a good half season, but we have to play even better. Iím excited to see how the young guys are playing this year. Hopefully we get off to a good start.Ē

And prolong it, this time.

Because if thereís one thing the soft-spoken Swede wants more than anything else, more than goals and points and the all-star nominations that come with them, itís to play into at least late April, for a change.

After winning the Swedish Elite League title in 2007, his final season there, Enstrom hasnít been nearly as happy since coming to North America.

ďMaking the playoffs is the first thing I want to do,Ē he said. ďI havenít been in the playoffs since I got over here. This season is about helping out the team, play as good as I can and keep improving. I want to play at a high level. Iím really excited.Ē

Then he fits right in.

Even as the slender Swede on a blue line of beef.

WINNIPEG JETS DEFENCE SALARIES

1. Dustin Byfuglien $4.25 million ($5.2 million cap hit)

2. Ron Hainsey, $5 million ($4.5 million)

3. Tobias Enstrom,$4 million ($3.75 million)

4. Johnny Oduya, $4 million ($3.5 million)

5. Zach Bogosian $2 million ($2.5 million)

6. Mark Stuart, $1.6 million ($1.7 million)

7. Randy Jones, $1.15 million ($1.15 million)


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