Between now and Feb. 29, sportsnet.ca will be taking an in-depth look at teams and the decisions facing them leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline. Today: Ottawa Senators.
General Manager: Bryan Murray
Pending UFAs: Chris Neil, Chris Phillips
2016 Draft Picks: 1st (Ott), 2nd (Ott), 3rd (none), 4th (Ott), 5th (Ott), 6th (Ott), 7th (Ott)
No-move clause: Dion Phaneuf
Cap Space on deadline day: $31,675,611
Team Mode: Too much invested to turn back now
The Ottawa Senators have made their play — unfortunately, it likely won’t be enough to land them in the playoffs.
The Sens went all-in on ‘right now’ and ‘just around the bend’ when they acquired Dion Phaneuf and his annual $7-million cap hit from the Toronto Maple Leafs earlier this month. Three consecutive losses immediately followed the move, meaning unless Ottawa can pull off something similar to its miracle run from a year ago, April is going to feel really familiar to Phaneuf.
Their place in the standings has left Ottawa in a situation where picking up additional help in the form of rental players doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and GM Bryan Murray has confirmed his club won’t be in the market for players it can only control for two more months.
And, because Ottawa doesn’t have much in the way of pending UFAs, there are no obvious candidates to be moved from the team. That said, defenceman Patrick Wiercioch is eligible to become a restricted free agent this summer and Sens management has never appeared to have the same affection for the 25-year-old as the analytics community does. There might be a team out there that values the six-foot-five Weircioch more than Ottawa.
As for selling players of real substance, don’t bet on it. Ottawa has some nice pieces, starting with surefire Norris winner Erik Karlsson and working down through Kyle Turris and draft-day steals Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone. The only member of that crew with any uncertainty surrounding him is Hoffman, the team’s leading goal-scorer and RFA-to-be in the summer.
Murray pushed a good portion of his chips in the middle when he signed Bobby Ryan to a big-money, long-term deal, then doubled down by acquiring Phaneuf. (By the way, we’re more than OK with that deal given Phaneuf can be a second-pair linchpin for the majority of his contract.) And, outside those two fellas, Ottawa has a few vital players — including Karlsson — on palatable or downright team-friendly contracts. With that in mind and the mandate clear, Ottawa could jump in on a player or two with term left on his deal.
Jonathan Drouin’s name has been linked to the Senators since the moment his trade request to the Tampa Bay Lighting went public, even though scoring goals really isn’t Ottawa’s issue. But, hey, the last time the Senators acquired an early-20s player who was unhappy with a team that drafted him third overall, they found a No. 1 centre in Turris for the paltry price of defenceman David Rundblad and a second-rounder.
From Murray’s perspective, if you insert Drouin into a top-six group with Turris, Stone, Hoffman and a rejuvenated Ryan, all of a sudden you’ve really got something cooking in the capital.
Just don’t expect any tasty results until next year.