The Ottawa Senators are confounding a lot of expert analysis.
After seeing Jason Spezza get sidelined with a back injury, Milan Michalek go down with a reported lower-body injury and Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Erik Karlsson go out with an Achilles tear, the Senators saw Craig Anderson go down with a sprained ankle.
Surely, the Senators were about to go down with a thud.
How could this team possibly compete with the best teams in the Eastern Conference?
With Daniel Alfredsson becoming a free agent at the end of the season, surely the Senators would be ready to move their leader and pick up some decent players or a few prospects for him.
That scenario may well come to pass, but it appears to be on hold right now. The Senators have been playing winning hockey despite these injuries, and general manager Bryan Murray and head coach Paul MacLean are thinking about getting back to the playoffs and not selling assets.
If the Senators remain a playoff team for the foreseeable future, they are not going to move Alfredsson or any other players prior to the April 3 trade deadline. The Senators have five other players who will be free agents at the conclusion of the season.
But if they can't keep up their current pace, Murray and MacLean may come to the conclusion that they can't stay in the playoff picture. If that happens, Alfredsson is most likely going to be a hot commodity.
Alfredsson, 40, is getting paid just $1 million this season, but he is carrying a cap hit of $4.875 million since he is in the last year of a four-year, $19.5 million deal, according to CapGeek.com.
Since the $64.3 million salary cap doesn't become reality until next season, there are a number of teams that will have room to add Alfredsson to their roster. CBSSports.com has reported that the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins are both interested in Alfredsson.
The Bruins are off to a stellar start, but they often have a hard time turning offensive opportunities into goals. The Penguins don't have that problem, but they would like to find a winger to put opposite James Neal and next to Evgeni Malkin—although he is out with concussion symptoms—and Alfredsson could fill the bill.
In a recent Hockey Night in Canada roundtable discussion, columnist Elliotte Friedman said the Senators would be looking for draft picks if they decide to move Alfredsson.
Friedman said the Senators will not just move Alfredsson for the sake of moving him. They have to get valuable picks for him and they are not going to just take anything.
In some ways, the Senators would be able to get more for Alfredsson the longer they remain in contention because he has greater value to them. Once the Sens fall out of the race, Alfredsson will still be the face of the franchise but he won't have as much on-ice value.
So even though they don't want to move Alfredsson because keeping him gives them a better chance to win now, he may not have the same value later in the year.
If the Bruins, Penguins or any other teams were to make the Senators an offer that included a player and two draft picks, Murray would have to give it serious consideration.
HNIC analyst and former NHL player P.J. Stock explained that the Senators may soon find themselves in a position of being forced to make a move with Alfredsson. "Of course you don't want to move him," Stock explained, "but you have to move him."
It's clearly a fluid situation and while the Senators want to keep the longtime star, they just might have to make a move.
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