They never learn do they? Four European primadonna's and all four of them run out of town on a wagon. Seems that greed and ego always trump common sense when it comes to playing for the Ottawa Senators. Say what you want about this franchise, but it only pays players what they're worth not what they, and their agents, think they're worth.
Andrej Meszaros has just learned his lesson the hard way. Had he been a student of history, he would have seen that those before him, Yashin, Chara, and Havlat, rarely get the best of Ottawa GM's when it comes down to contract talk. So, like his predecessor's, he was told to get out.
Meszaros was sent to the Tampa Bay Lightening this week (a team I've come to coin as the New York Rangers' "mini-me") for Filip Kuba, Alexandre Picard, and a first-round draft pick. What Ottawa gains is veteran leadership, size, local talent, and two first round picks in this year's draft. What they lose is inconsistency, give aways, and inaccurate shooting. I call this a good deal!
Now, going back to my earlier point about history. In Ottawa, demands never win out over talent and value. The first time Ottawa Senators' fans were privy to this was during the infamous Yashin debacle. A talented player, whom Ottawa owners and fans believed carried the franchise, who demanded big bucks in return for his years of service. Granted, Yashin's point totals were in impressive, but consider this, only once did he eclipse 100 points and only twice did he score over 40 goals in a season.
His playoff record was even worse: 20 playoff games 12 points. Fast forward to the 1999-2000 season and Yashin is told "thanks but no thanks" and is sent packing to the New York Islanders for Zdeno Chara, Bill Muckalt, and New York's first round draft pick which turned out to be Jason Spezza. Again, I call this a great deal!!
After Yashin left Ottawa his numbers declined substantially. In his first season on the Island he scored 27 goals and 70 points. A little low for a guy that signed a 10-year, $90-million contract. In each of the following years he would never again eclipse the 25 goal mark, scoring just 16 in his last season on the island before being bought out.
The second member of this list is Zdeno Chara. Chara, a 6'9" Slovak, was essentially seen by players around the league as a giant goon and nothing more. Ottawa, however, saw potential in his size and hard shot from the point. For four years he would quarterback the Senators powerplay scoring a career high 20 goals in the 2005-2006 season. However, what most fans will remember about Chara is he let Jason Pominville skate around him, Wade Redden, and Daniel Alfredsson to eventually score the series winning goal for Buffalo in the 2006 Eastern Semi-finals.
How does he react to this? He demands an eight year $8M dollar contract, then goes around questioning the leadership of Daniel Alfredsson and saying he should be captain instead. Hence, the following season he signs a 6-year $44M dollar contract with Boston (with a no-trade clause) and gets his wish becoming captain. Though the Senators did not receive anything in return, I believe his absence during the 2006-2007 season consolidated the leadership issue in that dressing room and cleared the air of yet another ego. Also, let's not forget that Ottawa reached the Stanley Cup Finals that year while Boston, with their new poster boy defenseman, didn't even qualify for the post-season.
Finally, we come to Martin Havlat. Havlat, a speedy forward from the Czech National Team, was perhaps the most talented player to come out of the 1999 draft. His crafty moves and lightening quick speed made him one of the most dynamic forwards in the NHL. After a career year where he scored 29 goals during the regular season and eight in the first round series versus Tampa, Havlat became a restricted free agent.
Despite his talent, Havlat was also very injury prone. Since he started his career in 2000 he has yet to play a full-season in the NHL. His last season in Ottawa, he only played in 52 of 82 games. During contract negotiations, the Senators were willing to give Havlat another chance by offering him a three year, $9M contract extension. Havlat's camp countered with a one year, $4.5M dollar contract instead. This sent a clear message to the management in Ottawa that Havlat was not interested in being a part of the long-term building process in Ottawa.
That summer he was traded in a three-team deal that saw him go to Chicago in return for Tom Preissing, Michael Barinka, and Josh Hennessy. The only asset to come out of this trade was Preissing, who put up and impressive +37 that year and was one of the keys to Ottawa's success in the playoffs.
But what's happened to Martin Havlat? Since signing a six year $36M dollar contract with Chicago, Havlat has played a grand total of 81 games over two and half seasons. He has yet to score 20 or more goals with the franchise and has scored only 80 points in the same time period. Again, I call this a deal!!
Finally we come back to Andrej. While there is no doubt that Meszaros is a talented D-Man, he still has a lot of growing up to do. Since his breakout rookie season, with 30 plus points and a league leading +35, his numbers have steadily declined to +8 in 2006-2007 to a dismal -15 this past season. As Murray said, he couldn't in good conscience make Meszaros the highest paid defenseman on the Ottawa Senators when you have the league's best shut-down tandem in Phillips and Volchenkov making a combined salary of $5M/year.
So, bye bye Meszaros we wish you all the best in Tampa, but us Sens' fans don't take kindly to your type. I'm sure you'll find out, as Yashin, Havlat, and Chara have, that from whence came cheers at the mention of your name will now rain boo's more fierce than any reckoning could ever be.
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