Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno love Buffalo and the city’s fans. They feel the Sabres are finally on the path toward success.
The players are also excited they’ve been traded to Minnesota.
“I'm excited to get a fresh start,” Ennis said Friday after being sent to the Wild with Foligno in exchange for Jason Pominville and defenseman Marco Scandella. “Obviously, I just want to thank Buffalo for giving me a chance to play in the NHL. I've had so many good memories there, right from being drafted in 2008. I want to thank the Pegulas for what they've done for me and for that city. I have a great relationship with the people in Buffalo.
“I'm definitely going to miss it there and everyone who made it special for me, but I'm definitely excited to be part of the Wild.”
The forwards have joined a team that has made the playoffs for five straight seasons. They’re leaving one that has missed six in a row.
“You're a little bit shocked and shaky, but it's an exciting feeling, a fresh start,” Foligno said. “I can't thank the Buffalo Sabres enough. They brought me in in '09 and made my dream come true of playing in the NHL. The fans are great. I want to thank them for the way we went through tough times, and the organization is first class.
“It's a bit of an emotional day. It wasn't easy to get that call. I have family there. It's tough to leave that city, but I’m young and it's a new chapter.”
The 25-year-old Foligno grew into a consistent physical presence last season. He scored 13 goals, and Minnesota was watching.
“I was proud of the way I played, like the way I played,” Foligno said. “It's the same thing they expect from me. I can play a big-body winger game and help out my linemates. Being 25 years old, I know what's expected of me, and I'm looking to add on to that.”
Ennis has had two injury-plagued seasons. Concussions limited him to 23 games in 2015-16, and sports hernia/groin surgery allowed him to play only 51 last season. He totaled eight goals during the two-year span after scoring 45 in the previous three.
“It's been very frustrating,” Ennis said. “I've worked hard to feel good. I've had a good summer of training and skating a lot. My body feels good. I'm ready to be the player I was a few years ago.”
Ennis was working out with childhood neighbor and new Minnesota teammate Jared Spurgeon when he got the news. The 27-year-old figured a call would come at some point.
“I've been in Buffalo since 2008, been through my fifth coach, third GM,” Ennis said. “It's good to get a change, I think, new change of scenery, new team.”
Ennis spoke with Buffalo General Manager Jason Botterill after the deal.
“I think Buffalo is going in a great direction in good hands,” Ennis said. “It was very classy of him, but I'm very excited to get it going in Minnesota. I can't wait."
Though Ennis had hinted during the season it was time to move on, Botterill was prepared to keep the shifty winger. Scandella was too hard to pass up.
“We were extremely comfortable bringing Tyler back and felt it was a scenario where he was doing different things from a training standpoint this year that he was going to be able to make a rebound and bounce back and have a strong season,” Botterill said. “Same thing with a guy like Marcus Foligno, a player who was drafted into this organization, worked his way up from Rochester to Buffalo, brought a different dynamic.
"You never want to lose quality like Tyler and Marcus … but it’s also a scenario where we’re very excited about what we’re getting back.”