Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sens Better Off Skipping Trade Deadline Day

For NHL fans, the trade deadline day can be like Christmas all over again in March. It may be a drag to see your team do nothing when it seems like everyone around you has improved, but Senators fans may end up thanking GM Bryan Murray for acting like a Scrooge on March 3.

Not that it would be a stunning case of inaction seeing as Murray has already warned the fans that there is no salary cap room to bring in another player without shipping similar money out. Injuries and the fact that they've kept at least one or two extra players around all season makes that a cold reality.

But let's just imagine for a moment that Murray had a little wiggle room to make a deal for a top six forward or a top four defenseman. Who would have to accept less playing time, or worse, a move to another team, to make that happen?

Let's start with the defense. The current top four of Chris Phillips, Anton Volchenkov, Filip Kuba and Erik Karlsson are going nowhere. Volchenkov is a free agent but Murray would be crazy not to resign him. Kuba has a no-trade clause and he is playing really well anyways, despite some defensive lapses that drive fans crazy once in a while. Phillips and Karlsson don't even need to be explained. Phillips is a lifer and Karlsson is the next Daniel Alfredsson for this club in about five years (yes, I said it).

You could argue that an improvement on the bottom defense pair could be in play but Matt Carkner has been a godsend and Chris Campoli is dirt cheap, which is the kind of player that every team needs to fill out a roster and still stay under a salary cap. I think it's fair to say that Campoli has been a bit of a disappointment since some envisioned him running the power-play in the near future, but he actually does provide fair service for his 600,000 cap hit. If Murray felt he needed to improve Campoli's spot, what are the chances of bringing in a player as good for the same salary? Virtually nil.

The goalies? For one, the Senators have two great young goalies already - one on a real streak in Brian Elliott and an even better one with great potential who just needs to get on a roll in Pascal Leclaire.

Good luck trying to find an impact goalie in the middle of the season anyways.

As for the forwards, there's probably a little more room for debate here, but again, bringing in an impact player may provide some short term insurance but it would only impede the progress of some young players who are now just breaking out and would also disrupt the chemistry of a team that has obviously grown close and found a common goal under coach of the year candidate Cory Clouston.

The team is deep in centres with either one of Jason Spezza, Mike Fisher and Peter Regin able to anchor a scoring line. Fisher has thrived this year and it would be a shame to see Regin get less minutes in favour of a hired gun. He is progressing better than anyone expected. Why mess with what's working (for a paltry 600,000 cap hit)?

Chris Kelly has been the subject of a lot of rumours but I don't see why Bryan Murray, or any fan however, would want to see the defensive specialist moved. Kelly is a core player and has quietly had an excellent season. He's likely Ottawa's most underrated player or at least in a tie with Jesse Winchester. Kelly is also a veteran who has been through the battles with Ottawa all the way down the line. He'll be even more important in a tight playoff series where it's often the little plays that make the difference.

Nick Foligno's injury may have opened up a spot on the top six but the Senators already have Ryan Shannon who has shown he can play that role, and you can't go wrong by giving Chris Neil and Jarkko Ruutu more ice time either.

The only player I would have no qualms about Bryan Murray replacing would be Jonathan Cheechoo. He's improved since the start of the season but still doesn't really provide anything that Shean Donovan can't do better. I think it's fair to say that Cheechoo is not going to magically regain his scoring prowess, but on the other hand, he doesn't hurt the team either. He gives you an honest effort and replacing him on the fourth line with someone else, either through a trade or with a minor leaguer like Zack Smith, will make little lasting impact on the team's fortunes this season.

Unless Murray decides to gamble and trade away a core player, there doesn't seem to be any sense in making trade deadline day an eventful one here in Bytown.

And with a team as red hot as Ottawa is right now, who would want to change anything?


Anonymous said...

I'm with ya, 100%.

Tom Benjamin, the Canucks hockey blogger, had a real good post about deadline deals last year.

He was commenting about the Flames decision to acquire Jokinen at the time. The Flames were a real good team at the time.

His point was that it was a lot easier to make a great team worse, than to make a great team better. He thought that the Flames were taking a big risk that might backfire. Adding Jokinen was sure to change the makeup of an already successful team. He was not a minor tweak.

Sure enough, the Flames were bounced in the first round. That's not to say that it was Jokinen's fault, but the team certainly did not play better with him.

The Sens have a good thing going. The guys who've set this wins record have earned the opportunity to see how far they can take the team this year. Murray should leave them alone.

One of the reasons that I don't like Murray is that I'm convinced that he is trying to purge the roster of all players that he did not bring in himself. His ego gets in the way of doing what's right for the team.

Senschirp has Lee and Kelly in trade rumours. People are speculating that Tuomu Ruutu may be a target. I hope this is not true. Ruutu has a $3.6M cap hit that extends to next year. By my calculations, the Sens can fit him in this year if Kelly is going the other way at the 60 game mark.

If we get Ruutu, you can kiss Volchenkov goodbye. No room for Volch next year.

Quite frankly, the fact that Murray is dragging his toes on Volch tells me that he is not too keen on re-signing him. With Foligno and Regin also looking for new contracts, acquiring a contract like Tuomu Ruutu would give Murray the excuse he needs to let Volch go in the summer.

He'll just say, "No room".

By acquiring a contract like Ruutu, he gets rid of Kelly, Lee, and effectively Volch; all leftovers from the previous regime.

Now, these are just rumours. It could mean nothing. But, the possibilities get my blood boiling. I'm a big Kelly and Volch fan. They're both underrated players. They're both guys that are easy to cheer for. They're both born and bred Ottawa Senators. They're both very effective. They both have many good years left. They're both consistent.

Tuomu Ruutu is none of these.

Murray's first priority should be to re-sign Volch. If we wait until July 1, we'll lose him in a bidding war.

Brussel Sprouts said...

Anon... that is ridiculous. Completely ridiculous.

Murray extended Chris Kelly to 4 years at 2.5 per, not to mention Neil, Spezza, Alfie, Fisher, (heatley....), NONE of which were 'his' guys.

Give your head a shake, this isn't high school. It's a multi-million dollar business.

Murray also signed Kelly and Neil both in the summer, long after their "UFA trade deadlines". This is no different.

Just because Senschirp and Hockeybuzz say or don't say it, DOESN'T MEAN SHIT.

Anonymous said...

Brussel Sprouts,

I hope you're right.

But, Neil would have been dealt at last year's trade deadline if the SJ offered more. If you remember last year, everyone was expecting Neil to have been dealt. The will to deal was there, it's just that the return was not saleable to the fan base when you compare to the fact we gave up a first rounder for Campoli.

Look at how quickly Kuba was re-signed last year. We all expected him to be dealt at the deadline, and instead he was given a three year deal with a no-trade to boot.

As for Spezza, Heatley, and Fisher, Murray really had little choice but to re-sign them. We were coming off a Cup run. They were core guys.

Since then, Spezza has constantly been in trade rumours. Heatley's gone. Vermette was signed at a discount, then traded a few months later.

By my recollection, Kelly was re-signed at the draft, not during UFA season. There was fan pressure to get it done. Neil was re-signed during UFA when it was well known that the Leafs had interest.

Kelly's name is always in trade rumours. There must be a reason for that.

Senschirp had a poll where 80% wanted Volch re-signed. That's about as close to unanimity as you're going to get in a hockey market. If Murray doesn't get the deal done, he'll need a pretty good excuse.

The Tif said...

@ Anon 12:25

An issue with signing an expensive guy and getting close to the cap is that you can't then call up guys to replace injured players. Wasn't the issue with Calgary not that the chemistry was terrible, but that they were so close to the cap that they could only play 18 guys in the playoffs?