Tagsenators

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.

More to come?

I keep looking at the General Fanager page for the Sens, specifically the “43” at the top where the number of contracts is indicated. With only one more RFA to sign, Cody Ceci, that means that Ottawa’s entire complement of players will total 44, which seems remarkably low. And, that is before the likelihood of sending Thomas Chabot back to junior, which then removes his contract from the total number.

Do the Senators need more players? That depends on your perspective. Right now, Ottawa’s lineup, however it shakes out in terms of actual lines and defensive pairings, will include at least one rookie, likely Matt Puempel due to his waiver status. If you factor in backups, then the team could include Dzingel and Paul, two more rookies, or one or both of Tom Pyatt and Mike Blunden, two players best used primarily in the AHL. Moreover, the team’s seventh defenseman would be Mike Kostka, a serviceable rearguard also best used in the AHL or the above-mentioned Chabot, who’s development could be stalled if he’s forced to watch a lot of games from the press box. (Though, admittedly, that would require being outplayed on a daily basis by Mark Borowiecki, which should force most of us to ask why Chabot isn’t back in junior at that point.)

So, back to our question: does this team need more player depth? I’d argue “yes”. Without a doubt, the team needs at least one more defenseman and, considering that Dorion has said that’s the last thing on his wish list, there’s a good chance one will be signed. But, if the team is serious about winning now (as stated in reference to the trade from Derick Brassard), then at least one more NHL-calibre forward would be a good addition, as well.

But, this is the Ottawa Senators about which we are speaking. Short of whatever spare change can be collected under the cushions of the various sofas around the team’s offices, there is likely little to no money to spend on additional players. Consider the following numbers:

$64,139,166
$65,275,000

The first number, according to the same General Fanager page linked above, is Ottawa’s commitments against the salary cap. (Interestingly, CapFriendly.com has this number at $64,219,167. The difference is based on Buddy Robinson and his $750,000 contract making the NHL roster over Nick Paul and his $670,000 deal.) The second, which is by far the more useful one for our considerations, is the actual dollars committed to players for the 2016-17 season. Think about that number in light of Eugene Melnyk’s infamous comments from last year, specifically his mention of “throw(ing) $68 million dollars” at the team’s payroll. A number, he continued, that “puts us way over budget”. I’d argue that Melnyk is far more concerned with the actual dollars spent on players than on what the cap hit is and, at more that $65 million dollars *before* the team has signed Ceci, I think it’s safe to say that the team is going to be over budget again this year.

That leaves one option if the team is serious about adding even one more player and that’s to sign him at the lowest possible price.

Enter the PTO. Most years, one or two NHL players take a Player Try Out contract for training camp as a way to, hopefully, play themselves onto an NHL roster and avoid having to be a late signing in Europe, sign with an AHL team, or sit out the season until someone gets desperate for another warm body. But, if there’s any chance at all that the Senators will get a NHL-calibre player on a bargain-basement contract, it could be through a PTO.

Who are some candidates for this option? The chances of scoring Kris Russell this way are almost nil (and, with that, a giant sigh of relief is expelled across the Senators fanbase). Unfortunately, getting Brandon Pirri this way isn’t likely, either. Most of even the remaining higher-end UFAs will either sign real contracts with NHL teams just before training camp or will cut their losses and sign in another league. Looking at the bottom end of the free agent pool doesn’t help either as it means signing a player that likely isn’t even as good as the backup options outlined above.

That leaves the mushy middle–a group of NHL players who might be older and established in North America or who genuinely feel they’re better and worth more than what an AHL contract would compensate them.

I hear you. You want names. Here are four, in no particular order:

  • Matt Frattin
    Frattin offers a solid career positive possession having played for some pretty lousy teams. He also has been blessed by a little bit of puck luck (career PDO of 101.5) and all while starting in his own zone more often than not. As a right shot, he might be an option to spell Chris Neil after Neil passes the 1,000 game mark that seems to be the only reason he still has an NHL career.
  • Jordan Szwarz
    Szwarz is a Group VI free agent [http://www.nhlfreeagents.com/#!group-6-free-agents/c1nv7] which, by definition, means he hasn’t got a lot of NHL experience. But, he’s only 25 years old, has okay possession stats in a small sample size (especially in 2013-14 when he played in 26 games for the Coyotes) and started the vast majority of his shifts in the defensive zone.
  • Dainius Zubrus/Domenic Moore/Barret Jackman/Dan Boyle
    Okay, so I cheated with this one, especially since I’ve mixed forwards and defensemen into this mess. But, this group is the aged veterans who might still have something left in the tank and I don’t see the team giving more than one of these guys a PTO. Zubrus looked kind of terrible in the Stanley Cup finals, but was serviceable before that. Moore and Jackman seem to be the best options as the most likely to offer bottom of the lineup help. Boyle probably can’t play in the NHL any longer, but he’s an Ottawa native and that seems to count for a lot with the Senators.
  • Adam Pardy
    I’m not the first person to suggest Pardy as a target for the Senators, but at this stage in his career, he’d make for a serviceable bottom pairing defenseman. Yes, he had a terrible season last year and he’s started most of his career shifts in the offensive zone, but he’s had decent possession numbers in his career. Plus, like Chabot, he’d really only need to play better than Borowiecki every day to improve Ottawa’s defence.

The Senators flirted with bringing in Martin Havlat as a PTO last season and could be considering using the tactic again this season. Whether it’s one (or more) of the above players or others in similar situations, the NHL free agent market is such this season that there could be some legitimate NHL talent in desperate circumstances come the eve of training camp. Because of this, using PTOs could be the best way for Ottawa to add depth that will allow their young players to get more AHL time and improve the bottom of their lineup.

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.

Ottawa Senators circa 2018/19

The more I look at the Ottawa Senators, specifically the choices they’ve made this off-season, the more I think the team’s management might actually be building for two to five years from now.

The last several years, the Senators have looked like they had no plan beyond doing just enough to get into the playoffs. Many moves seemed to be made with an eye to appeasing the fan base rather than adhering to a specific plan for the future. Trading for Bobby Ryan after losing Alfredsson to free agency, then signing him to his massive contract, were two such moves. Trading Spezza for a cluster of futures was another. Signings such as Borowiecki and Hammond, not to mention the trade of Lehner to make room for the latter, also appeared to be driven by knee-jerk response than by careful consideration. Most recently, the trade for Dion Phaneuf seemed, on the surface, another reactionary move.

Since Dorion took over, things have started to look a little bit more like a plan. I’d even argue that we can now start to see the beginnings of that plan starting as far back as the 2015 draft, since it’s been apparent for almost that long that Dorion was the successor-in-waiting to Bryan Murray.

To illustrate my point, let’s look at the most recently drafted players. Those taken in the past two drafts have included:

  • a potential (and overdue) replacement for Spezza (Brown)
  • a possible 200-foot 2nd-line centre (White)
  • a possible future partner for Erik Karlsson (Chabot)
  • at least two possible top-six wingers (Dahlen, Gagne)
  • several possible second and third pairing defenders (Jaros, Wolanin, Lavoie)
  • several possible depth forwards (Nurmi, Burgess, Chlapik, Ahl)
  • a shot-in-the-dark goalie who could actually turn into something (Daccord)

As such, here’s the possible lineup that could be in place for the 2018/19 season:

Forwards:
Clarke MacArthur – Mika Zibanejad – Mark Stone
Matt Puempel – Logan Brown – Bobby Ryan
Francis Perron – Colin White – Curtis Lazar
Nick Paul – Jean-Gabriel Pageau – Ryan Dzingel
extras: Jonathan Dahlen, Gabriel Gagne, Max McCormick

Defence:
Thomas Chabot – Erik Karlsson
Dion Phaneuf – Cody Ceci
Andreas Englund – Marc Methot
extras: Patrick Sieloff, Fredrik Claesson, Christian Jaros

Goal:
Matt O’Connor
Marcus Hogberg

Anyone I’ve left off is because they won’t necessarily be under club control for 2018/19 (i.e. UFA, retirements, etc.) or don’t project to be more than marginal depth options (there may be at least a couple among the list above that will fit that category, as well). I, like many fans, hope that Mike Hoffman gets a long term contract and that Turris resigns with the team in a couple years when his contract expires. But, I see the draft and development strategy as planning for a future without them.

This team could be very strong or it could be extremely terrible or it could end up somewhere in between. In my mind, the weakest area is the goaltending. I still have high hopes for O’Connor and Hogberg looks capable, but projecting that position is akin to voodoo, so who knows whether either will turn out.

Obviously, Dorion is not immune to the same desires to appease the fanbase as appear to have plagued his predecessor. The signing of Chris Kelly is likely an indication of such. But, the way things look to me, I’m at least a little comforted by the idea that there might be well-considered plan in at least one area of hockey operations.

My suggestions for Ottawa’s free agent targets, Part 2

Yesterday’s signing of Steven Stamkos by the Tampa Bay Lightning dramatically changes the free agency landscape for those teams looking to acquire top-end talent in this way. As the readers of this site know, though, the Ottawa Senators are not a team that usually plays at the top of the free agency market. So, while imagining top free agents in Senators uniforms is an enjoyable fantasy, looking at potential signing target in a realistic way requires aiming a lot lower down on the list.

In my previous post, I suggested some Group VI free agents that Ottawa could explore signing as a way to improve depth and add some NHL experience to the minor league roster. Today, I’ll offer my suggestions for adding some bona fide NHL talent to the Senators without breaking Eugene Melnyk’s very small bank account.

The players below are all Group III free agents, meaning that they are at least 27 years of age, have accrued at least seven years of NHL experience, and have expired contracts. When anyone talks about free agency in reference to the NHL, it is this group of players to whom they usually refer.

As outlined above, the key to this list of players is taking into consideration both the team’s history in the free agent market and general manager Pierre Dorion’s own words from just before the draft. When asked about whether Ottawa would be “active” in free agency, his response made very clear that the team would be seeking to sign only depth players and not anyone that might be a top six forward/top four defenseman.

So, considering the realities of the Ottawa budget and the team’s general aversion to risk, I’ve made some suggestions below for free agency targets for the team. I’ve included handedness for defenders and position for forwards and, for all, 2015/16 cap hit and whether the contract included a two-way (2W) clause. I’ve also linked each player to his hockey-reference.com page. Statistics (courtesy of Puckalytics.com) provided in the embedded images are for the past three years to ensure a significant sample size:

Defence:

Advanced analytics for suggested Senators defenseman free agent acquisitions. Courtesy of Puckalytics.com

Advanced analytics for suggested Senators defenseman free agent acquisitions. Courtesy of Puckalytics.com (Note: Dahlbeck was a late addition and not included in these statistics.)

The unfortunate reality is that Ottawa doesn’t value defensemen who lack size, current bottom pair defender Chris Wideman notwithstanding. The suggestions above are all above 6’ tall and are not exactly possession darlings. Each has strengths that mean they’d be an upgrade over the existing pairing, but weaknesses that exclude them from climbing higher up the depth chart. McBain seems to be the most offensively gifted with 110 points in 345 games, but also has played very sheltered minutes in his career. Dahlbeck (a victim among the unusually high calibre of unqualified restricted free agents this year) is by far the youngest of the group with comparable possession numbers to the others. None of these players will radically transform the Senators blue line, but each would make for a quality depth signing at a low price.

Forwards:

Advanced analytics for suggested Senators forward free agent acquisitions. Courtesy of Puckalytics.com

Advanced analytics for suggested Senators forward free agent acquisitions. Courtesy of Puckalytics.com

Again, little separates these forwards, though I was surprised to find that both Sceviour and Santorelli have exceed Tlusty in individual points per 60 minutes over the past three years. Nonetheless, all four have decent possession numbers for fourth line players who generally start their shifts in the defensive zone. Upshall’s numbers are particularly interesting as he seems to have maintained a very good 51+% Corsi despite his offensive zone starts dropping well below 40%. Tlusty could also be useful due to his abilities to play all three forward positions and, as recently as 2014/15, to score 30+ points in a season.

Beyond these players are many others that Ottawa could consider, many of which would not cost much more than what these players will likely sign for. A player like Matt Martin fits the makeup of a player that Ottawa’s hockey operations staff have loved in the past (e.g. a big, tough forward who’s got “intangibles”) and, considering last year’s cap hit, I suspect he might sign for something like Chris Neil’s $1.5 million salary. But, that would mean the team is spending $3 million on fourth line wingers and I just don’t see that happening.

Also, as mentioned above, a third pool of free agents has emerged this year that could be ripe for exploit. Many teams left surprising restricted free agent names out in the cold by not offering them a qualifying offer. These players, cast somewhat unexpectedly into unrestricted free agency, likely would command extremely low salaries. A quick glance at some of the bigger names (Joe Colborne, Brandon Pirri, Dahlbeck) show players with less than appealing analytics. Still, taking some time to find a diamond in the rough could yield a quality player for a rock-bottom price. Unfortunately, I suspect the one that glitters most would turn out to be the one Ottawa threw away, Patrick Wiercioch.

Assuming Ottawa wants to give its younger players more time to develop in the minor leagues, signing a few unrestricted free agents will be necessary to fill out the roster. As we see, there are players to be had at very low prices that can provide the kind of depth Ottawa will need to perhaps push for the playoffs while also shielding players who are not quite ready for prime time.

My suggestions for Ottawa’s free agent targets, Part 1

The Ottawa Senators aren’t exactly the team one thinks of when one hears the phrase “active in free agency”. In the past three years, Clarke MacArthur remains the biggest name free agent that Ottawa has signed away from another team. And, as long as Ottawa’s financial situation remains the same (a.k.a. while Eugene Melnyk owns the team), that isn’t going to change.

But, that’s not to say that Ottawa can’t exploit the free agency system to acquire some truly talented depth. There are a lot more NHL calibre players than there are NHL jobs right now (I’d argue that’s the reason for expansion, but we all know that’s just about the $500 million) and lots of players who will sign for less than $1 million and likely accept two-way contracts.

Continue reading

An opportunity to trade down?

Every draft preview I’ve read seems to imply that between pick #7 and as low as #16 or even #22, you’re going to get a similar calibre player. It also looks like it could be a fairly deep draft, especially if you’re looking for more complimentary pieces rather than true top-end talent.

In light of these, perhaps Ottawa’s best move for this year’s draft is to trade down, even a few slots, and try to get at least one more pick in the top three rounds.

For example, maybe Carolina, drafting at #13, has their heart set on Tyson Jost (I’m just making this up to make a point, so don’t take this as a bona fide rumour). What might it be worth to the Hurricanes to make sure, if he’s still around when Ottawa picks, to move up that one slot to make sure they get the player they want. They have a bunch of extra picks in this draft. A third round pick? A second rounder? Anything Ottawa can get in that situation is worth making the trade, even if it’s a seventh rounder (though, in that case, I’d question Dorion’s negotiating skills).

(And, by the way, I kind of have my heart set on Tyson Jost, so I’m actually hoping that this exact scenario isn’t the one that plays out.)

It doesn’t have to be just the first round in which Dorion leverages one pick for two or more. Ottawa has one pick in each of the first and second rounds and two in the third. It could take some clever negotiations, but there’s no reason those four picks couldn’t be turned into five or six within the top 100 selections. That would greatly enhance Ottawa’s prospect depth. They likely wouldn’t get much in the way of elite talent, but they won’t if they stand pat, either. Plus, this way, the team gets more lottery tickets in the sweepstakes that is drafting future NHL players.

The team will have a cluster of players in Binghamton (though most of them played in the NHL at some point this year) who likely top out as bottom six forwards or bottom pairing defensemen. The most likely future for at least a few of these players is one filled with AHL games broken up by the occasional call up to sub for injury.

The draft is an opportunity to dream even just a little bigger. Maybe, with a pick acquired through maneuvering outlined above, Ottawa finds another player like J.G. Pageau or maybe possession driving defenseman to eventually bump Borowiecki or Wideman from the lineup. An NHL team needs players in these positions as much as the top six or top pairing.

The “All-Trade” Mock Draft

Everyone and their brother is publishing mock drafts this week in advance of the NHL festivities occurring on Friday night and Saturday. I, too, would like to get in on the action. One thing I’ve noticed, though, is that almost no one is willing to guess what teams might trade up or down or into or out of the first round. Sure, lots of folks have been predicting such trades, but few combine that with a mock draft.

So, here is my mock draft complete with all the trades I think could be possible in the first round. Do I think all of these trades will happen? Of course not. But, in isolation, I can see the teams involved making each suggested move. Well, maybe not every one.

  1. Auston Matthews (C) – Arizona Coyotes
    Trade with Maple Leafs for Dylan Strome, Christian Dvorak, 2016 #4 (from Oilers), 2016 #20, 2016 #53. Yes, really.
  2. Patrick Laine (LW) – Winnipeg Jets
    Because if there’s a pick in the draft that has literally no chance of being traded, this one is it.
  3. Jesse Puljujarvi (RW) – Carolina Hurricanes
    Trade with Blue Jackets for Nicolas Roy, 2016 #6, 2016 #43. ‘Canes figure they can part with their 2015 first round pick if it means getting a talent who can step right into the NHL. Pretty much all of hockey Twitter agrees.
  4. Matthew Tkachuk (LW) – Toronto Maple Leafs
    See #1 and #7. Toronto will now have all three members of the London Knights best line in the 2016 Memorial Cup, plus Dylan Strome as their #1 centre of the future. And, Lou Lamoriello is just getting started.
  5. Pierre-Luc Dubois (C) – Montreal Canadiens
    Trade with Canucks for Lars Eller and 2016 #9 because Jim Benning is good at drafting, but very bad at trading and should just stop doing the latter.
  6. Logan Brown (C) – Columbus Blue Jackets
    See #3. Carolina acquires this pick from Calgary for Valentin Zykov, 2016 #13, 2016 #21 thereby demonstrating that Ron Francis might be diabolical in his ability to plan ahead. Flames still don’t have any goalies.
  7. Mikhail Sergachev (D) – Edmonton Oilers
    Trade with Coyotes for 2016 #4. Also receive Ryan MacInnis, Kyle Wood, 2016 #68, 2017 2nd-round. Chiarelli ends up with two defense prospects, a forward prospect, an extra 3rd this year and an extra 2nd next. Arizona ends up with Matthews and an otherwise empty cupboard.
  8. Alex Nylander (LW) – New Jersey Devils
    Trade with Sabres for Jon Merrill, 2016 #11, 2016 #73. In the first of Tim Murray’s moves, he turns this pick into the left-shot defenseman he covets, replaces the pick, and adds another.
  9. Olli Juolevi (D) – Colorado Avalanche
    Trade with Vancouver Canucks for Tyson Barrie and 2016 #10. Also get Luca Sbisa and Alex Burrows. Joe Sakic might be worse at trading than Jim Benning.
  10. Clayton Keller (C) – Vancouver Canucks
    See #9. Like I said, Benning is good at drafting.
  11. Jacob Chychrun (D) – Boston Bruins
    Trade with Sabres for Alexander Khokhlachev, 2016 #14, 2017 3rd-round. Tim Murray continues his pocket picking – adds another scoring forward, replaces the pick, and adds another.
  12. Tyson Jost (C) – Calgary Flames
    Trade with Red Wings for Tyler Wotherspoon and 2016 #13. Flames decide they can’t risk losing out on Jost. Ken Holland doesn’t bother to tell Treliving he wasn’t going to take him anyway. Flames still don’t have any goalies.
  13. Jake Bean (D) – Detroit Red Wings
    Trade with Senators (for #12) for Teemu Pulkkinen, Ryan Sproul, rights to Pavel Datysuk, 2016 #16, 2016 #107, 2016 #167. Also receive Alex Chiasson and 2016 #163. The weirdest trade of the day lets both GMs, Dorion and Holland, say they got good value and they both might actually mean it.
  14. Keiffer Bellows (C) – Pittsburgh Penguins
    Trade with Sabres for Marc-Andre Fleury, 2016 #55, 2016 #61. Also receive Robin Lehner. Murray flips his enigmatic starter for a solid, established one while Pittsburgh buys cap flexibility without asking Matt Murray to play next season without a safety net. Treliving is heard swearing loudly from elsewhere on the draft floor.
  15. Michael McLeod (C) – Anaheim Ducks
    Trade with Wild for 2016 #24 and 2016 #30. Anaheim use their two first rounders to move up, just because they can.
  16. Dante Fabbro (D) – Nashville Predators
    Trade with Ottawa for 2016 #17 and 2016 #78. The Predators love their defensemen and decide they can’t risk Ottawa taking Fabbro from them. Pierre Dorion doesn’t bother to tell Nashville’s David Poile he wasn’t going to anyway.
  17. Julien Gauthier (RW) – Ottawa Senators
    See #12 and #16. We in the Senators fanbase hope that a new day is dawning in Ottawa’s front office. Turns out, though, that the brain trust still isn’t able to resist a hulking forward with “intangibles”.
  18. Max Jones (LW) – Philadelphia Flyers
    This situation works out too perfectly as the almost quintessential Flyers forward falls into the teams lap, so the Flyers stay put at #18. Somewhere, Ed Snider smiles.
  19. Logan Stanley (D) – Montreal Canadiens
    Trade with Islanders for Greg Pateryn, 2016 #35, 2016 #45. Someone suggested that Garth Snow won’t be able to just make his pick and then sit on his hands until Round 4. Meanwhile, Montreal looks to get value for a defenseman they could otherwise lose in the expansion draft. Marc Bergevin is once again considered a god in the Montreal media.
  20. Charlie McAvoy (D) – Toronto Maple Leafs
    See #1 and #7. The Leafs really need a right-shot defenseman and they get one here. Plus, you didn’t think that Toronto would be happy with just one pick in the first round, did you? Just wait. Trader Lou isn’t done.
  21. Luke Kunin (C) – Minnesota Wild
    See #15. Trade with Flames for Gustav Olofsson and 2016 #24. Wild get the strong centre they covet with a minimal sacrifice from their depth of young defensemen. Flames still don’t have any goalies.
  22. Pascal Laberge (C) – Tampa Bay Lightning
    Trade with Winnipeg for Dominik Masin and 2016 #27. Lightning trade up to get a centre prospect to replace Stamkos. Sort of. They hope. Maybe one day.
  23. German Rubtsov (C) – Florida Panthers
    Florida has no reason to trade up or down, so they use their new analytical model to take a flyer on the biggest question mark in the draft.
  24. Boris Katchouk (LW) – Calgary Flames
    See #21. Flames get a “meat and potatoes” winger to complement their strong two-way centre. They also still don’t have any goalies.
  25. Kale Clague (D) – Winnipeg Jets
    Trade with Stars for 2016 #27 and 2016 #36. Winnipeg continues to collect prospects like pogs.
  26. Filip Gustafsson (G) – Toronto Maple Leafs
    Trade with Capitals for 2016 #31, 2016 #57, 2016 #72. Toronto completes the draft day hat trick by getting the top goalie on the board. Treliving is heard swearing loudly from elsewhere on the draft floor.
  27. Riley Tufte (LW) – Minnesota Wild
    Trade with Stars for Jared Spurgeon and 2016 #30. Why on Earth would Dallas want Jared Spurgeon?
  28. Tage Thompson (RW) – Philadelphia Flyers
    Trade with Blues for Philippe Myers, 2016 #48 and 2016 #52. Blues hope Myers becomes the second coming of Barrett Jackman in a few years. Philadelphia continues to draft big tough forwards. Somewhere, Ed Snider smiles.
  29. Alex DeBrincat (RW) – Dallas Stars
    Trade with Bruins for Jared Spurgeon and 2016 #30. Also get 2016 #49. And, now you know why.
  30. Rasmus Asplund (C) – Boston Bruins
    See #29.

There you have it. In my mock draft, 27 of the 30 first round picks change hands, the best player the Senators get is 39 and plays in the KHL, and the Flames still don’t have any goalies.

Why I’m still high on Matt O’Connor (and why Ottawa doesn’t need to draft a goalie in 2016)

Ottawa has been burned many times by U.S. college free agents. Arguably, the only truly successful (thus far) prospect Ottawa has acquired from this pipeline is current backup goalie, Andrew Hammond. The best of the rest signed by the team include such luminaries as Bobby Butler, Jesse Winchester, Cole Schneider and current prospect Buddy Robinson. While all have suited up at the NHL level, none would be considered an impact player. And these are relative success stories! There have been many signings that never panned out at all.

So, with this in mind, it’s understandable why Senators fans might be quick to dismiss a former NCAA free agent when things don’t seem to be going so well. Such, I feel, is the case with Matt O’Connor.

As we all know, O’Connor was the top prize of the 2015 NCAA free agent class. He is an intelligent player who experienced significant success at that level. Signed at 23 years old, he was more mature than a junior-aged prospect and, many thought, much closer to competing at the NHL level. And, sure enough, things looked great in Ottawa’s prospect and training camps – so much so that, when Hammond went down with an injury in camp, O’Connor was tapped (now infamously) with the start in Ottawa’s home opener. The Senators lost that game, but only by a score of 3-1 and O’Connor actually played quite well. Really, it’s only owner Eugene Melnyk’s comments with respect to the “stupidity” behind the decision on the part of former coach, Dave Cameron, to start O’Connor in that game that has tainted our memory of it.

From that game, O’Connor was assigned to a, frankly, atrocious Binghamton squad for seasoning. Finishing out of the playoffs for the second straight year and with a team total 241 goals against, defence was not that team’s strong suit. Arguably, neither was offence nor special teams, for that matter. Thus, while O’Connor did not acquit himself to the level we’d all hoped, perhaps there was good reason for that.

After all, until Hammond proved himself a capable goaltender behind Ottawa’s (itself less than stellar) NHL-calibre defence, he was a fair-to-poor goalie prospect for the team, going by his statistics in Binghamton. What turned Hammond’s game around, according to Hammond himself, was having regular access to goalie coach Rick Wamsley. Another of Ottawa’s prospect goalies, Chris Driedger, similarly credited Wamsley with guiding his own improvement.

(All of this said, there is legitimate argument that Wamsley wasn’t the wizard he might have been sold as.)

O’Connor suggested that working with Wamsley was at least part of the reason for signing with Ottawa. That he, perhaps, did not get the attention he expected might have contributed to his struggles. O’Connor floundered in Binghamton until December, when Wamsley paid a visit and worked with the prospect. That still left more than two months in which O’Connor was left to figure things out for himself. Once O’Connor got some instruction, he seemed to start to turn things around.

The point of reminding us of all this history is to argue that maybe Ottawa doesn’t need to use one of its draft picks on a goaltender this year. As Trevor Shackles points out in his article, the Senators have needs at every position. Perhaps a better use of Ottawa’s picks would be to address those other needs and wait and see on O’Connor.

Besides, it’s not as though the Senators don’t have other goalie prospects in their system. There is the aforementioned Driedger, who played reasonably well behind the same terrible Binghamton team – well enough to earn a call up to the Senators when Hammond sustained a second injury during the season. There is also Marcus Högberg, who has been identified as a promising goaltender and plays in Sweden’s top professional league. Finally, the Senators took Joey Daccord in last year’s draft with their 7th round selection. Daccord isn’t considered a particularly likely prospect to hit, but neither would be any goaltender that Ottawa took later than the second or third round in this year’s draft, either.

To write off Matt O’Connor after one rough season isn’t fair to him or the process behind grooming NHL goaltenders, who frequently do not establish themselves until age 25 or 26. With only six picks in this year’s draft. I’d rather see Ottawa’s brain trust focus on some of the team’s other areas of weakness and see what they have in O’Connor and the other goalies already in their system.

Let’s get rid of Ottawa’s extra players

The Ottawa Senators have a lot of players clogging the bottom of their roster. Even more to the point, they have a lot of money tied up in these unneeded or replaceable players. In this post, I propose solutions to all the extraneous players on the Senators’ NHL roster.

© 2019 Nick Valentino

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑