Norm MacIver points record wasn’t the only thing to come to fall within the past week. Yes, the Brian Lee era in Ottawa has also come to a close.
Since being drafted with the ninth overall selection in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, it’s been a long and uphill climb for the John Muckler draft selection to try and endear himself to the fans and incumbent managerial group.
Now that climb is finally over.
Although the bulk of this team’s work — the separate Kyle Turris and Ben Bishop trades — was done prior to yesterday’s deadline, the Ottawa Senators did trade a bottom pairing/depth defenceman to the Tampa Bay Lightning for a bottom pairing defenceman of their own. Averaging 17 minutes and 36 seconds of ice-time per game, Matt Gilroy ranked fifth amongst Lightning blueliners in average time on-ice.
General manager Bryan Murray’s pursuit of Gilroy is well publicized and dates back to 2009 when the defenceman was a senior at Boston University. The then highly pursued collegiate free agent opted to sign a deal with the Rangers instead. After two forgettable seasons in New York, Gilroy became an unrestricted free agent this past offseason when Glen Sather opted not to tender him a qualifying offer. Gilroy then inked a $1M one-year contract with the Lightning.
While discussing his previous interest in the player, Murray said:
“We weren’t involved to the financial level that obviously the Rangers were. Being a New York guy, he had a real preference to stay in New York at that time. Now he’s found, like a lot of pros do, that you are inclined to move around more often. Talking to him today, it sounds like coming to a hockey market and obviously he’s gotten a lot of calls from the media and he’s excited about that and thinks he can jump in and make a push towards the playoffs.”
Hmmm, is that GM speak for “now that he’s out of options, Ottawa’s finally an attractive destination for him“? (Note: If you want to listen to yesterday’s press conference in which Murray reflects on the trade deadline, you can do that by clicking here.)
Murray still believes that Gilroy can bring some dimension to the Senators.
“We believe that (Gilroy) has very good mobility. He’s going to push the pace and push the puck. We want to have our defence contribute a lot on the offensive side of the puck.
That is a priority in our game today.” ~ General Manager Bryan Murray
Thanks to the offensive production of Erik Karlsson and the push the pace philosophy that the organization has employed, Ottawa’s blueline is the most productive in the NHL. Unfortunately, it’s not without cost. Averaging 32.2 shots allowed per game, Ottawa also leads the league in that statistical category. As Scott (@Wham_City) pointed out yesterday, Matt Gilroy will certainly fit in with Ottawa’s group. Allowing 26.8 shots per 60 minutes of ice-time, Gilroy was Tampa Bay’s worst defenceman in terms of shot prevention.
“He’s not a depth guy. He’s probably a four (or) five guy.”
As Ian Mendes alluded to yesterday, from the sounds of what Murray was saying yesterday, it is easy to infer that Gilroy could be viewed as a potential insulator to the eventual loss of aging veteran players like Filip Kuba or Sergei Gonchar.
To borrow from Bruce Garrioch, that may be a bit naive.
In terms of Gilroy’s average ice-time per game, this season is his best to date playing 17:36 a night. In his previous two seasons, it was 16:18 and 14:10 respectively. So forgive my skepticism when I say that Gilroy’s never shown that he can be anything more than a bottom pairing guy in his career.
Even at the age of 27, there is no guarantee that his offensive capabilities will develop further than they already are.
Using the Dobber Hockey‘s Frozen Tools component, here is a comparison of what Gilroy and Lee have done this season:
Gilroy’s points-per-game rate is higher than Lee’s. In part, this is inflated somewhat by his team shooting 11.44-percent whenever he’s on the ice.
Like it or not, the Senators are hoping that Gilroy can add a puck-moving component to the bottom pairing and with Matt Carkner already acting as a defensive defenceman, they viewed Brian Lee as expendable. In the process, what they have done is assemble a blue line in which three of its members will reach unrestricted free agency on July 1st.
As optimistic as the organization is that prospects like Mark Borowiecki or an Eric Gryba or Patrick Wiercioch could step in and play in the NHL next season, expectations within this city are going to rise for next season. For this organization to take a step forward, with the exception of Erik Karlsson, the defence is going to have to get significantly better. What it does is put a ton of the pressure on the organization to: a) retain their current guys; b) go into a weak open market and overpay to bring in a potential bad fit; or c) trade assets to bring in a defenceman or two.
In light of his candid comments yesterday about finding Kyle Turris and engaging him in a fight, Joe Corvo went on the defensive and backtracked on what he said. It’s the best D that Corvo has played all season.