To any agitated thumb-twiddlers who wanted more action on trade deadline day, please do not direct your angst toward the Ottawa Senators.
No deal made in the past few weeks—because, really, it’s trade deadline month—inspired more “Oh, snap!”s than the transaction that saw Dion Phaneuf leave the captaincy of the Toronto Maple Leafs behind to join the only Ontario-based NHL team that’s recently been concerned with winning games.
By blindsiding us with that one, Ottawa supplied more than its share of shock during a time of year when hockey fans—like so many pending UFAs—hope to be moved.
But combine the acquisition of Phaneuf with the disheartening news that a high-ankle sprain will sideline centre Kyle Turris long-term and you start to understand why Sens GM Bryan Murray wasn’t a mover and shaker on Monday. The Senators’ action was limited to sending bottom-six forward Shane Prince and a 2016 seventh-rounder to the New York Islanders for a third-round 2016 pick, something Ottawa entered the day without.
The Sens also stretched the definition of a minor deal by jettisoning defenceman Conor Allen to the Minnesota Wild for forward Michael Keranen in a flip that includes two 26-year-olds with eight games of combined NHL experience between them.
Murray—whose team woke up on deadline day four points out of the playoffs with two teams ahead of it in the chase for the final spots—should probably be credited for acknowledging the reality of the situation.
On a day when 25 deals get talked about for every one that goes through, there’s a lot of information the general public isn’t privy to. What you can bank on, though, is that Ottawa was never going to find a player who can replace Turris in the lineup.
And faced with the task of leapfrogging a few teams in a year when the worst seed in the East is going to face the force that is the Washington Capitals, Murray understandably played it straight, shying away from any monumental shifts or even taking a crack with a rental.
What some thought Ottawa may have done on deadline day is, technically, something it could still do before the end of the season—trade for Jonathan Drouin. The calendar flipping to March doesn’t prevent teams from swapping; it just means any player who moves now is not eligible to skate in the playoffs for his new club. That’s likely to be a moot point for Ottawa and, who knows, now that all the high-end teams have presumably suspended their interest in Drouin, maybe there’s a for-the-future deal Murray could titillate Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman with.
(Of course, the most cruel of twists would be if a team that thought it was out of the race—Ottawa or otherwise—traded for Drouin and suddenly caught fire, and then had to put him in the press box for the post-season.)
When the Senators acquired Phaneuf, management committed to some version of the current core in its pursuit of the Cup. But they definitely weren't getting there this year, not with Turris on the shelf. The hope in Ottawa now has to be that, with an improved blueline from the drop of the puck next fall, the team will be an obvious buyer the next time we’re all living through this frenzied period in the hockey season.
That’s a long time to wait before being a playoffs-focused club, but doesn’t change the fact that acting like one on Monday didn’t make sense for Murray.
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