Trade Curtis Lazar? For what? To whom?

It seems everyone has Curtis Lazar traded by the Ottawa Senators sometime between now and the trade deadline. The latest such suggestion comes from Trevor Shackles of SilverSevenSens.com. In that article, he says he’d take a Lazar for 2nd round pick trade “every single time”. Problem is, who’s that pick going to come from?

One thing that gets me when I read articles like this (and, please don’t take this as me picking on Trevor, because he’s in esteemed company not just among bloggers, but mainstream media folks, as well) is an underlying assumption that Senators GM Pierre Dorion will have no problem finding a trade partner who is either stupid or naive.

Harsh, yes, but my reasoning is this: if both the team and the fan base no longer value this player’s contributions such that he is a frequent scratch and being bandied about in trade rumours and talks, then how can one expect that another team will feel so differently that they would be willing to give up something they undoubtedly value in return?

Put another way, if we think Lazar is the pig, do we really think selling him is a matter of the shade of lipstick we put on him?

The frequent comparable brought up in most arguments for trading Lazar is Jared Cowen. Many feel that holding onto Lazar beyond the deadline will result in whatever trade value the young forward has evaporating almost overnight. And, I’ll admit, that’s a possibility.

But, there are some substantial differences between Lazar and Cowen. First is their positions. It’s a lot easier to put a struggling forward on the ice night after night because he’s only one of twelve. A struggling defenseman, though, exposes your whole team whether you put him out for the minimum eight-to-ten minutes a night to screw up and cost you goals against or you bench him and play your other five defenders even more, causing them added fatigue and increasing their likelihood of mistakes.

Another difference is the two players’ injury histories. When Jared Cowen was traded at 24 years old, he’d had no less than three long stints on the injured reserve. Moreover, when he did play, it was obvious that he had lost a great deal of mobility (something that was not a strength of his to begin with) because of the injuries. The Senators moved him, not to play for his new team, but as a salary cap exploit. As a player, the injuries and his inability to recover from them had sapped all his trade value, not how long of a leash the Senators had given him.

Lazar has had no such injury issues and, in fact, he’s a legitimate–if unspectacular–NHL player. But, there’s also nothing special about him right now beyond his draft pedigree and every team has had more than one first rounder bomb out in the past, so that pedigree isn’t exactly worth much. Without at least that, how is Lazar worth more than the “mid-round draft pick” (see #19) apparently being offered for him? After all, there are lots of players in free agency even at this point in the season who could be signed for the same money or less and score just as few points as Lazar has while not costing the acquiring team a draft pick, as well.

Should the Senators move Lazar? Probably. It really doesn’t look like he’s going to pull it together in Ottawa. But, if they do move him, the team and the fan base need to be prepared to do so for a very insubstantial return. Because, right now, that’s all he’s worth to anyone.

Lazar… first line right wing?

Okay, hear me out on this one before you rip me a new one in the comments.

The Ottawa Senators have a bit of an enigma in Curtis Lazar. As Colin4000 points out in his excellent breakdown of the team’s bottom six forward options, Lazar’s preference is to play centre, but he’s likely destined for the wing. Colin also states that Lazar isn’t ready for the top six and he’s not wrong… in the traditional sense of the “top six”. But what if the idea of “top six” is changing?

In winning the Stanley Cup this year, the Pittsburg Penguins may have redefined the concepts of top six, top nine, and bottom six by playing Crosby, Malkin and Kessel on separate lines. No one would argue that Crosby is not that team’s top centre, but his linemates for most of the playoffs were Conor Sheary and Patric Hornqvist. Malkin, the team’s “second” centre (and first line centre on any other team), played with Chris Kunitz and Bryan Rust. On Kessel’s line were Carl Hagelin and Nick Bonino and the trio was arguably the only line consisting of all “top six” calibre forwards.

Ottawa’s strength has been offence for a while now and finding ways to spread that offence around, while also improving team defence could be a real challenge if the team does things the same way as last year. So, what if the Senators learn something from Pittsburg’s example?

Consider this line-up for the Senators top nine:

Hoffman – Turris – Lazar
MacArthur – Brassard – Ryan
Smith – Pageau – Stone

There are some real wins with a line-up like this. For one, it ensures at least two forwards known for his “defensive responsibility” is on each of these lines (Turris-Lazar, MacArthur-Ryan, all three on line three). More importantly, each line has solid possession drivers who should be able to limit shots against. It also puts the team’s best two goal scorers, Hoffman and Ryan, with the centre most likely to succeed at feeding them the puck since Turris, a righty, can pass to Hoffman on his forehand, as can Brassard, a lefty, to Ryan. Finally, it keeps together the line (Smith-Pageau-Stone) that was a bit of a revelation for the team in the late going last season.

Oh… and if each line gets 16-18 minutes of ice time per night, that would only leave as little as six minutes of ice time for the fourth line each night. With two players in their mid-thirties and a rookie the most likely make up of that line, such limited time might not be the worst idea.

Is it the perfect line-up? Probably not. Plus, the way that coaches juggle lines, it likely wouldn’t last more than a week. Still, I think there are some real benefits, not the least of which is a real test of Lazar’s abilities. While he wouldn’t be expected to drive the offence of the first line, he’d certainly be expected to keep up and these would be the best linemates he’s played with since he joined the team. It might be a case of throwing the young player into the deep end, but after two full seasons with the team, even he admits he has a lot to prove. This opportunity would give him the chance to do just that.

Alright, I’ve said my piece. Let the ripping begin.

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