The somewhat unexpected (but inevitable) trade of Mike Fisher to Nashville today officially signaled the end of the old guard in Ottawa and painfully ripped open the doors to a full rebuild in the capital.
A first round pick that will be in the middle of the round and a conditional pick doesn't seem to be a home-run type return for a guy like Fisher, but it should be considered fair and GM Bryan Murray got a strong asset in return for one of his biggest trade pieces (I find the sentiment that Nashville "overpaid" for Fisher completely false – anything less than a first rounder for Fisher would have been a complete steal). And now it looks like there's going to be a lot more moves on the way, but none more bigger than this one.
You also have to consider the cap space this trade creates as part of the return for Fisher. They save 4.2 million for each of the next two seasons and that's quite significant when you add that to the space created by the likes of Jarkko Ruutu, Chris Phillips, Alex Kovalev, Pascal Leclaire and Ryan Shannon, all of whom will be UFA's.
They may need the savings when the disappointing renewals for season tickets start coming in this summer.
It wasn't exactly a strong farewell performance for Fisher this year but he's been battling a rib injury all season long and hasn't been able to hit or play his normal power forward game. But you don't have to go too far back to remember Fisher physically imposing his will on other teams and scoring big goals with that underrated laser beam of his.
For those of us who have watched this Senators team for a long time, it's going to be more than strange to see the Senators without number 12. Many thought he was the heir apparent to Daniel Alfredsson as team captain but it's also interesting to point out that Alfie publicly stated just days ago that Jason Spezza should be in line for the "C" when he finally hangs them up. That's probably just a strange coincidence but maybe this deal has been in the works for longer than we know.
Maybe time will tell that Murray traded Fisher at exactly the right time. Power forwards tend to regress in their 30's, and with Fisher now past his 20's, perhaps the Senators have already used up his best years. The two places where Fisher will be missed most are in the playoffs and in the community. The playoffs are a pipedream so that doesn't really matter anymore, but Fisher was a very visible presence in this town and probably the most popular Senator of all-time next to Alfredsson, as well as the most charitable.
But is this not a Hollywood ending for Fish? Trading for Carrie Underwood's husband in Nashville is probably the most genius marketing move in the NHL since they held a lottery for Sidney Crosby or when Mark Messier returned to New York in 2000. It's almost too perfect to believe. (uh oh).
So who's next? The obvious one is Chris Phillips but does Fisher's best friend on the team, Chris Neil, now feel less attached to the future here as a result of this trade? Maybe he wants a taste of the playoffs this season as well. But, as always, you can't throw the baby out with the bathwater.
There are a lot of good players on this team having bad years. If Phillips leaves and doesn't come back next season, who is going to step in and play his 25 minutes a night? Do you give those minutes to a rookie? Don't think so. The Senators would have to go out and sign a veteran, and with the free agent market looking thin this summer, who better to sign than Phillips himself as veteran mentor to all the young defenseman who are going to be in the lineup next season?
Chris Neil bleeds black and red and is a team leader in that locker room. Losing him would be just as tough as losing Anton Volchenkov last summer.
But with the Fisher trade, it looks as though Bryan Murray has finally thrown in the towel on this core group and that means no one is really safe.
One wonders if Murray can turn around and use this Nashville first-rounder in a package with Phillips to get that Boston-owned Toronto first-rounder.
Hey, one can dream.