Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Senators Get Their Man
Of the top 5 shot-blockers in the league, the Ottawa Senators now own two of them, thanks to Bryan Murray sending a second round draft pick to the Islanders for veteran defenseman Andy Sutton.
While newcomer Sutton comes to town with no real expectations beyond this season, the other shot-block king, Anton Volchenkov, has found himself the centre of a contract imbroglio that threatens to steal all the buzz from trade deadline day. But back to Sutton....
First off, I love this deal.
Sutton is exactly the type of player Ottawa needed for their blueline after spending the season leaning too heavily on mobile but unintimidating players like Alex Picard, Chris Campoli and Brian Lee. Adding Sutton adds one more mean s.o.b. to play against on the Ottawa backline and that's the sort of balance you want heading into the long grind of the playoffs.
Some may argue Ottawa is now overly balanced towards defensive defenseman but that's the right way to lean in the post-season anyways. They already have a nearly perfect combination up front of skill and toughness and now opposing forwards are going to have to deal with a possible tandem of Matt Carkner and Sutton in front of either Pascal Leclaire or Brian Elliott.
In a conference stacked with offensive superstars like Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Alex Semin, Jeff Carter and Ilya Kovalchuk, the Senators had to come up with a way to counter those forces and since trading for a player like Scott Niedermayer or Sheldon Souray was not in the cards, Murray chose to get tougher and bigger, the right path in my opinion.
This deal will also shrink the crease for Leclaire and Elliott. With goaltending being the only real question mark on the Senators, adding Sutton's size, muscle and shot-blocking ability is only going to help the team's inexperienced netminders.
The price for Sutton?
Draft picks are valuable items nowadays but, as Murray pointed out, the price for a rental defenseman was a second round pick, established by the Jordan Leopold trade and cemented by the Denis Grebeshkov trade to Nashville.
Give credit to Murray for jumping on the coveted Sutton before the bidding wars heated up on deadline Wednesday. He paid no more and no less than the market value. You can't blame him for that.
Considering that the 2nd round pick had no guarantees attached that would ensure the Senators would get an impact player, and that whoever they drafted would only be able to contribute 3 or 4 years down the road, the cost becomes even more reasonable.
Daniel Alfredsson and Alexei Kovalev are not getting any younger. If they want to win a Stanley Cup championship, they have to try for it now. For the most part, the Senators have all the pieces to at least give Pittsburgh and Washington a challenge.
Murray could have hoarded picks and played it safe but the Senators would have went into the playoffs with possibly both Chris Campoli and Brian Lee playing in their top six.
No offense to Campoli or Lee, but they are not what you picture when you talk about playoff warriors. They barely have enough gusto for the regular season as it is.
Sutton on the other hand, is going to take some of the pressure off of Volchenkov and Chris Phillips and will prove to be a reliable presence who can log upwards of twenty or more minutes a night.
In short, Murray has built a team that can now play any way you want. They can play run and gun or they can fight for every inch along the boards. You can't say the same for most other teams in the Eastern Conference.
The only real questions remain in goal but that's a story for another day.
Also of note: Murray seemed to throw cold water on the notion of trading Volchenkov today, saying that it was not in the plans. In my previous post I went over the possible implications of Murray's interview yesterday on the Team 1200 where he gave the impression that he was unhappy with the now halted contract negotiations with the defenseman, but thankfully the wild rumours making the rounds today about a possible deal (that would have crippled the Senators chances this season) were just that ... rumours.
Speaking of rumours, it's hard to stomach the brazen audacity of the a lot of the "inside source" NHL blogs that make a living off of feeding false information to the masses to run up site hits, but the one that made me laugh today was the one about the Penguins wanting to move Sergei Gonchar.
People will believe anything I guess.