With the news this week of a possible trade between the Ottawa Senators and San Jose Sharks, it seems clear that Bryan Murray would like to make changes to the Senators' roster.
There is speculation that either centre Patrick Marleau or defenceman Matt Carle could come to the Senators in exchange for defenceman Wade Redden.
But Redden has refused to waive his no-trade clause, just as he did this past summer, after a deal moving him to the Edmonton Oilers had been negotiated at the NHL draft.
The value in adding either Marleau or Carle to the lineup seems clear. The former could be the elusive top-six forward Murray has been seeking, while the latter would have added a puck-moving defenceman to the lineup. The much maligned Redden is supposed to fill that role for Ottawa, but hasn’t been living up to the expectations associated with a $6.5 million dollar a year pay-cheque.
Redden’s numbers actually aren’t any worse this year than they have been over the past few years. With six goals and 26 assists, Redden is on pace for 48 points, which is just about as well as he has done any season since 2000-01.
The difference is that for $6.5 million, a team expects the kind of dominance at the back-end displayed by Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, and that Calgary’s Dion Phaneuf is starting to show.
Redden will also be an unrestricted free-agent on July 1, while Carle has been locked up for four more years for a salary-cap hit of around $3.4 million a season. It make’s one wonder what else Ottawa would have needed to send San Jose’s way to seal the deal.
Another consideration in the possible move of Redden is the salary-cap relief that it would provide. Although Redden is only owed around $2 million for the remaining eight weeks of the season, the same goes for any other player earning $6.5 million (for 187 days) this year.
That means that by taking Redden’s salary off the books for this year, the Senators could afford to add a player like Marian Hossa, Olli Jokinen, Mats Sundin, or Rob Blake.
It would also mean that, assuming Ottawa didn’t take much salary in exchange for Redden, the Senators could offer unrestricted free-agent Peter Forsberg a contract for $6 million a season, for this season only, and have to pay him less than $2 million for the next eight weeks.
None of this is likely to matter, since Redden will not waive his no-trade clause. Unless Murray believes that getting the cap relief described above is worth losing Redden for nothing—i.e., by placing him on waivers—Redden is staying in Ottawa for the remainder of the season.
So, what is Bryan Murray to do? Will he break with the Senators’ policy of not mortgaging the future by trading picks and prospects for immediate help? The answer to that question depends on how close the Senators’ management feels the team is to winning the Cup.
I don’t think that there’s a price too high for any Sens fan to be willing to pay in order to win it all. Unfortunately, nothing is certain. The Senators could trade for Blake, and sign Forsberg, and then lose in the finals to the Minnesota Wild—stranger things have happened.
What the Senators desperately need—more than anything else—is to simply play better hockey. The extended losses of Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson demonstrated the team’s weaknesses. The team has adequate depth, but lacks consistency in committing to sound defensive play. The team’s goaltending has been average at best, and has turned into a distracting fiasco.
Even with Heatley and Alfredsson back in the line-up, the team looks vulnerable—and potentially an easy target for a more determined playoff opponent.
Were I Bryan Murray, I would not move a prospect like defenceman Brian Lee (ninth overall in 2005), Josh Hennessey, or Nick Foligno to try to prop up a struggling club. Unless the Senators show much better efforts during the next eight or so games before the trade deadline, I would suggest that Ottawa does nothing. This year is not their last chance to contend for the Cup.
Ottawa has forwards Heatley, Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, and Mike Fisher locked up for four or more years each. Defenceman Chris Phillips is under contract for three more years, while Anton Volchenkov, Joe Corvo, and Christoph Schubert are Ottawa property for two more years.
Thus, the Senators have at least two more shots at the Cup with the key members of their current roster in place. That means that they can sit tight this year, and hope that next year the team plays more consistently and warrants a block-buster trade at the deadline.
Patience isn’t very exciting, but in the case of the Ottawa Senators it seems to be the best policy to follow—and after suffering through the early 90s, most Sens fans have demonstrated a capacity for a great deal of patience.
However, should the team light it up leading up to the deadline, fans will demand that a move to put the team over the hump be made. Players that Ottawa has been rumoured to be willing to part with are Foligno, Corvo, Antoine Vermette, and Ray Emery.
Trading Emery would be tough. The upside would be removing a distraction from the team and maybe getting something in return for him. The downside would be downgrading the teams’ goaltending depth (unless another goaltender came back in the trade).
There’s been speculation that the team may try to acquire Dwayne Roloson from Edmonton or Nikolai Khabibulin from Chicago. These moves seem unlikely, since both goalies are under contract for next year and the Senators are not eager to pick up new salary commitments with players like Vermette and Chris Kelly to sign.
Vermette could be traded if the team believes that they cannot resign both he and Kelly. As a restricted free-agent, Vermette would fetch more in a trade. Moving Corvo could free up salary cap space next year to resign both players, and is the principal reason why he could be moved. However, he had a strong playoffs last fall and would be missed on the blueline were he to leave.
The Senators do not have any pressing reason to move Foligno. His name has been mentioned primarily because the team hasn’t made a long-term commitment to him and he is a good prospect who could make a deal for an impact player work.
In return for any combination of these players and draft picks, the Senators could expect to receive a top six forward, an experienced defensive defenceman, or an upgrade in goal—hence, the names of Hossa, Sundin, Jokinen, Blake, Roloson and Khabibulin.
Were I Murray, I’d prioritize defence and go for Blake. Without moving Redden it would be difficult to fit another top player under the cap—but, if it were possible, both Hossa and Sundin would fit well in an Ottawa uniform.
I wonder if the Senators still have any of Hossa’s old garb in storage?