Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Toby's glad to be back, lockout or no

Enstrom returns to city, practising with NHLers again

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The wandering thing just wasn't working out for Winnipeg Jets defenceman Toby Enstrom.

It has been eight long months since he's played a meaningful game and he's back in Winnipeg to wait some more.

"It's been a long summer, a long workout," Enstrom said Monday at the MTS Iceplex, where he was working out with a cast of regular teammates and fellow locked-out NHLers. "I'm excited to get it going again so hopefully sooner than later we can start playing."

The 28-year-old Swedish-born blueliner made it clear Monday he wasn't in the mood for any questions about the NHL work stoppage, including legal, union and speculative angles.

When the lockout began in September, Enstrom waited a few weeks and then went to Austria to play in Salzburg.

He stayed there only a short time, playing in five games for the Red Bulls.

"They have a roster-cut deadline so I didn't want to go there and take somebody else's job so that made it easy for me make a decision to leave," he said. "I was hoping for the games to get going over here, too, so we'll wait and see what happens."

Enstrom said he was happy to be on the ice while he was there.

"Well, it was nice to be back playing again, that's for sure, it was fun."

With that stint cut short, Enstrom went to his homeland but couldn't find the work he wanted.

"My only option in Sweden was MODO," he said, naming the team he played for before moving full-time to the NHL in 2007. "And the Swedish Elite League didn't have the league open for NHL guys so I decided to wait and see what happens here around Christmas."

Numerous media outlets erroneously reported a month ago that Enstrom had signed in Orebro, a second-division team in Sweden where his brother Thomas plays.

"I don't know where you guys got that from," Enstrom said. "I didn't skate with any teams back home. I skated with some friends of mine and that was pretty much it."

His first season in Winnipeg, his fifth with the relocated Atlanta franchise, yielded six goals and 33 points. Enstrom missed 20 games due to injury, mostly in the first half of 2011-12.

With one season to go on the contract he signed in 2009, Enstrom was scheduled to earn $4.5 million in 2012-13. In the off-season, he signed a five-year extension to that deal which will give him a raise to $5.75 million per season, assuming NHL play will resume.

He said Monday that he thought Winnipeg was a good place to turn after little play in Europe.

"This is my home now," Enstrom said. "It feels good to be back. I miss the guys, too. To see some of the guys, be practising with them, it felt like a good choice for me."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 18, 2012 C3

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