Subban Works Out, Questions Arise

In an excellent post that outlined his concerns with the Senators showing interest in bringing back Filip Kuba, Scott also included a brief blurb that commented on Malcolm Subban’s tweet indicating that he had worked out privately for the Ottawa Senators yesterday.

The most common question that Senators fans have at this point is: “Why would the organization invite Subban into town for a workout when the organization already has goaltending depth in Lehner, Anderson and Bishop?”

It’s a fair query.

Having dealt their second round pick to Phoenix – which was moved towards the deadline to Columbus for former Senator Antoine Vermette — in December’s Kyle Turris trade, Subban’s tweet sparked the interest of Senators fans for a few reasons: a) they have depth at the goaltending position; b) the risk in drafting a goaltender so high is well documented; c) across the reputable mock draft boards, Subban’s  been ranked around 55th overall; and d) they have more pressing positional needs that need to be addressed, like the blue line.

Of course, when a prospect evaluator like Hockey Prospectus’ Corey Pronman tweets that he prefers Subban to Lehner, it makes the Senators fan base a bit frenetic.

In an exchange of emails with Pronman that wouldn’t just limit him to 140 characters, I asked him if he could elaborate on the rationale behind his opinion.

He did, but not before prefacing it by saying, keep in mind where I ranked Subban in my rankings. Even a great goalie prospect isn’t really all that valuable as a prospect. (Note: Pronman had Subban ranked 78th in his Top 100 NHL Draft Prospects List for Hockey Prospectus.)

It’s nothing against Lehner, just Subban has a ton of upside. Lehner is athletic, very much so for a man his size, but he’s not as high-end as Subban who has really good tools. Subban isn’t a project too as he’s pretty good positionally as well. I see Lehner as starting goalie upside, which IMO is high praise for a goalie.

Rather than reading too much into what Subban’s private workout means, it’s important to stress that a number of prospects wind up making subsequent visits and by no means should this it be used as conclusive proof that Ottawa’s going to draft the young goaltender with their fifteenth overall selection. Nor should it be used to draw some baseless inferences on what the organization may or may not think of Lehner/Anderson/Bishop’s development or place within the organization.

At its root, goaltenders take years to develop.

Lehner, for example, has been in Ottawa’s system since he was selected in the second round of the 2009 NHL Draft. Three years later, he’s only played in 15 NHL games and is due to start next season back in Binghamton. Hell, it may take him another two or three years before he usurps one of the incumbents for the number one starter’s gig.

In Ben Bishop’s case, it took the 2005 third rounder the better part of seven years to finally land himself a NHL gig and a one-way contract.

Instead of getting worked up over the ability, athleticism and bloodlines that Subban has, we need to remind ourselves that such players are risky long-term assets that take years to develop (assuming they ever do).

Should the organization decide to flip some of their stockpiled fringe NHL quantity (ie. the glut of ‘skilled’ forwards that will be competing for NHL jobs and could find themselves in the AHL next season) to acquire another pick to select Subban, that’s one thing. I just wouldn’t hold out hope for the organization to draft Subban at fifteen, when there will be a wealth of competent defenceman available who can help an already competitive Senators team compete within a season or two.

Moreover, I just cannot fathom the Senators possibly moving a goaltender like a Bishop or a Lehner that the organization has already given up time/money/valuable assets for because they can draft another goaltender that it will have to pour more money and time into now. After some cost/benefit analysis, such a move is just too risky.

Management has already gone on record stating that there are fourteen players that it likes at fifteen. Perhaps Subban isn’t one of those names and is someone that the organization would consider trading down for should their first fourteen choices go off the board. In any event, I would just chalk Subban’s private workout up to an organization that is doing its due diligence and research on a player. Apparently Subban is just the first of four goaltenders — Subban, Daniel Altshuller (an Ottawa product who played for the Nepean Raiders and Oshawa Generals), Francois Brassard (another local product from Gatineau who played for the Quebec Remparts this past season) and an unknown name —  that the Senators will interview this week.

FWIW here’s what Pierre Dorion was saying on the subject in an appearance on the podcast prior to the 2010 draft:

I think when you’re drafting for need, the one position where you draft for need is probably goaltender. And we addressed that last year when we took Robin Lehner in the second round. We feel as an organization down the road he can be a number one goalie, and he can help us win games. So I think when you are drafting for need at that specific position you always got to look at what you have coming up. We didn’t feel we had a lot of depth at that position so we took a goalie early last year. Now you only need one goalie at a time and we think we’ll do fairly well with Robin. So…I don’t see us taking a goalie early in the draft this year…maybe we’ll gamble late.

Other News of Pithy Importance:

Fortunately, it sounds like there’s no chance that Ottawa could land Chris Kelly in UFA, so we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief.

– For anyone who missed it, Pronman recently did a write up for Hockey Prospectus on impending UFA defensive prospect Justin Schultz. We’ve talked about him as an ideal and inexpensive free agent that fits Ottawa’s needs, so it’s a worthwhile read.

– David Staples from the Edmonton Journal believes that a team will have to guarantee Justin Schultz a spot on their roster next season so that he will sign a contract. The good news is that Michael Russo believes that Schultz wants to play in Canada. No wonder Bryan Murray is intent to let his FA defencemen hit the market, “Hey Justin, look at these roster spots that we have available for you.”

– GM Bryan Murray was on Team 1200’s Sports Call this morning and touched on a number of things: he has not heard from Daniel Alfredsson yet and will not rush him into a decision; the organization has decided that it will not qualify RFA Nikita Filatov; talks with Erik Karlsson have started and will continue when they’re in Vegas for the NHL Awards; Murray does not expect to be active in free agency on July 1st.