Reuse, Retool, Recycle: Salut ‘Toine


If I told you at the beginning of the day that Ottawa, a team that has the 4th worst record in the NHL, traded a player entering his prime for an injury-prone/expensive goalie, retained an aging veteran defenceman and risked losing Neil without compensation while taking on more salary. Would you consider it to be a good day?

An Ian Mendes email reminded me of this infamous quote:

“This is not an organization that is completely crippled. It needs fine-tuning, it needs some tweaking, it needs a player here, a player there, a few good bounces and that’s it. But we’re nowhere near that type of environment.” ~ Eugene Melnyk

After today, I’ve come to realize that Bryan Murray is an unpredictable man who hasn’t given up on the bulk of this roster.

While most of the Ottawa Senators’ deadline trade chatter was focused on acquiring assets for the impending UFA’s (Chris Neil and Filip Kuba), one of the biggest deals of the deadline involved the departure of our good friend ‘Toine.

Today, Antoine Vermette was dealt to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Pascal Leclaire and Columbus’ 2009 2nd round pick. While Pierre Maguire was quick to pucker his lips and spread Leclaire literary fellatio everywhere (“He’s the best goalie they’ve ever had!” Uh, Pierre, Dominik Hasek?), optimists who refuse recognize the inherent risk in this transaction deserve a kick in the groin.

Why?

Leclaire goes under the knife more often than Jack-O’s nose. After having surgery on his ankle, Leclaire won’t even be cleared to play this season. When you take into account a knee injury suffered last year, Leclaire’s durability is immediately at question. He’s never played more than 54 games in a season and has never started more than 12 games in a row. When you compound his injury history with a high price tag of $3.8M, you can’t help but be reminded of a certain goalie who was plucked off of waivers today by the Leafs. (Note: It’s not Leclaire’s fault that I’m approaching this with skepticism. With Ottawa goalies, we’re conditioned to think the worst. Lalime, Emery, Gerber – That’s quite the lineage of shit.)

If the injuries aren’t enough to worry you, consider the fact that Leclaire has only had a save percentage higher than .900 in 2 of his 5 NHL campaigns. While he’s only 26 and has some serious upside, he may not be the slam-dunk answer for an organization that’s at the point of grasping for straws at the goaltending position.

Even though Vermette’s been a good soldier here in Ottawa, he was never going to develop into the offensive player that we thought he’d become. Regardless of whether he’s had any decent offensive wingmen to play with, Vermette’s never been able to produce consistently enough to justify consistent ice-time on one of the top two lines. The Sens will sorely miss his speed, PK duties and his faceoff skills but the importance of bringing in a young, number one goalie was too hard to pass up.

What makes the deal more palatable is the fact that Columbus tossed in a second rounder to rid themselves of an expensive backup to Steve Mason. While it should be a mid-2nd round pick, it certainly makes the trading of a 1st to land Comrie and Campoli easier to stomach.

Speaking of the Campoli/Comrie deal, the siging of Kuba to a 3 year, $11.1M pact definitely makes me wonder why the deal with the Isles took place. As reports circulate about Comrie’s intention to sign here, the more I get the impression that Murray made the trade to bring him back into the fold for the long term. However, if the importance was to get exclusive negotiation rights with Mike prior to July 1st, why not trade for these rights just before the July 1st opening day of Free Agency and trade less to get Campoli?

When that deal with the Isles was announced, it set up Kuba for a deal. Now with Kuba locked up for the next 3 years, where does it leave Brian Lee and Campoli? Especially with indications that the Senators expect Erik Karlsson to make a push in camp next year. (Or dare I say the Sens draft Victor Hedman.) If anything, Kuba’s signing makes the Isles trade reek of desperation to get a puck-moving d-man.

Even though the inability to trade Chris Neil comes as a big surprise, I found Murray’s comments at his 4pm Press Conference to be shocking. According to Bryan, there was no market for Neil. Does that sound like man who’s under the gun trying to cast himself in a better light? (As an aside, did anyone else notice the lack of enthusiasm in Murray this afternoon? Whether he was tired or whatever, the man supposedly just traded for the missing #1 goalie and he came off like he just watched a porno featuring the cast of the Golden Girls. He was just blah.) Or, is Murray’s declaration that there was no market for Neil an attempt to bring down Neil’s value even further? If there’s no market for Neil, Murray can’t overpay for his services and Murray can’t afford to lose him for nothing. For the first time since he has taken the job, he’s put his stamp on this stamp and if this team continues to stink next year. He won’t be able to defer the blame to the John Muckler regime. This one’s on him and for the first time, I’ve actually lost some faith in him.

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