Nichols: Weighing In On The Weekend

On Friday, July 5th, the Ottawa Senators lost the heart and soul of their team.

One day after Bryan Murray expressed confidence in being able to retain Ottawa’s captain, Daniel Alfredsson spurned the Senators to ink a one-year, $5.5 million contract ($3.5 million guaranteed and $2.0 million in bonuses) with their new division rivals, the Detroit Red Wings.

It has been a numbing, dramatic experience and it’s something that I’ve struggled to draw parallels with. For me, the closest thing I can compare it to is the loss of Zdeno Chara to free agency or John Muckler’s decision to ink Marian Hossa to an extension before flipping him hours later with Greg DeVries to the Atlanta Thrashers in exchange for Dany Heatley.

The organization has lost plenty of pivotal players entering their primes but never anyone like Alfie.

From the accolades and awards in 17-seasons worth of on-ice contributions to his invaluable contributions to the community through his involvement with the Ringside for Youth and the ‘You Know Who I Am’ campaign for the Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health, Alfie became synonymous with Ottawa, and deservedly so.

On a number of occasions, most notably during his appearance on the Jim Rome Show, Alfie let it be known that if he had the opportunity to win a Stanley Cup, he wanted to do it playing for the Ottawa Senators. And within a span of weeks, to see him bolt after the first exchange of contract of numbers between his representation and Bryan Murray, because he believes the Detroit Red Wings give him the best opportunity to compete for the championship, it just doesn’t sit right.

And speculation has run amok and the questions continue to persist. Was it about the money? Did Alfie feel disrespected and taken for granted during negotiations? If Bryan Murray was sincere in his efforts to sway Alfie to re-sign by letting him know that the Bobby Ryan trade was close to becoming a reality, why wouldn’t that enough to convince Alfie that the organization was serious about supporting him with better and elite talent? Are Melnyk’s finances starting to affect the way the Senators are operated? And if so, is that why Alfie opted out?

There are so many unresolved questions and as such, Friday was a rollercoaster of emotions. For that reason, I wanted to give it a few days to let the day’s events marinate, so I could let everything soak in before putting some digital ink on the interwebs.

The Senators may miss Alfie’s leadership, experience, skill and post-practice keep-away game, but make no mistake, the Senators are unquestionably a better team on paper than they were before July 5th.

After signing the underrated Clarke MacArthur to a two-year deal that includes a full no-movement clause, the Ottawa Senators traded three young assets in Jakob Silfverberg, Stefan Noesen and a 2014 first round pick to the Anaheim Ducks for 26 year old Bobby Ryan.

Prospect porn indulging fans will loathe the move saying that the Senators gave up too much for what could only amount to two seasons of Bobby Ryan.

There’s no question that the return for the Ducks is a healthy one, but each of the individual pieces comes with warts.

I will miss: Silfverberg’s board play; his release; his dogged pursuit of the puck carrier when coming back on the backcheck; his overpowering shot during shootout; but I think I’ll miss the ‘Ooooh Ahhhhhh Silfverberg!’ chants most of all.

Nevertheless Silverberg will turn 23 in October, making him just three years younger than Bobby Ryan. At times, and we’re all guilty of this, we looked at Ottawa’s lineup last season, alluded to the number of rookies who litter its roster and immediately salivated over how much better the Senators could simply get through the internal growth of its players – just because a few particular players carry the rookie designation, we tend to overlook the actual age of players like Cory Conacher and Silfverberg, ignoring that the likelihood of them taking their games to another level is probably smaller than it would be for say, a 19 year old prospect like Zibanejad. In their 22 year old NHL seasons Bobby Ryan was about twice as productive as Silf on a per game basis.

Jakob's skating was never a strength. His play in the playoffs left something to be desired and questions over whether he could be a first line winger went unanswered. (As an aside, one of my biggest disappointments now that Silf has moved on is that injuries last season deprived us of the opportunity to watch #33lineup alongside Jason Spezza. Having struggled through his adjustments in the early portion of the season, Silfverberg never got comfortable until after Spezza was on the shelf. Now we’ll never know what kind of production he could have put up playing alongside Ottawa’s number one pivot.)

Stefan Noesen projects as a power forward with some offensive skill, but as a player whose ceiling second line winger, he may wind up just being a third line player. Conveniently for Noesen, he can step into a situation in Anaheim in which he can continue to develop his game alongside Plymouth Whaler linemate Richard Rackell. This familiarity of playing together in the OHL, one would imagine, should aid in his professional development.

But as I mentioned, although both players have upside, neither are shoo-ins to develop into star players. To give you some semblance of what Ottawa gave up in the deal, Hockey Prospectus’ list of Ottawa’s Top 10 Prospects (dated August 27th, 2012) ranked Silfverberg and Noesen as the organization’s third and seventh best prospects.

Relative to the collection of assets that were linked to last summer’s prospective trade talks with the Columbus Blue Jackets for Rick Nash – names like Mika Zibanejad, Robin Lehner, Nick Foligno and a draft pick were bandied about — the Senators made out okay here I think.

Even in his post-trade press conference, GM Bryan Murray acknowledged that initial trade talks with the Ducks focused on two roster players and a second round pick. Inferring from what Murray said, I’ll assume Mika Zibanejad was one of the players who the Ducks sought, but Murray curbed that desire by swapping the second with the 2014 first rounder.

Losing a first round pick is never palatable, mostly because as a fan, the draft is an event itself and you never want to see your favorite organization sitting on the sidelines. But, from many accounts, the 2014 NHL Draft is shaping up to be a weak class, so if you're Ottawa brass, it makes sense that if you’re going to roll the dice, you do it by moving a 2014 first.

Speaking of risk, the Senators are inheriting plenty of it, despite getting the best player in the deal.

They parlayed a plethora of controllable years on their assets for two seasons worth of Ryan (it's not like the guy has been VERY public about wanting to be a Philadelphia Flyer in the past year). Due to the finite number of roster spots available, obviously not all of Ottawa’s prospects within its vaunted system can play for the Senators, but these prospects and draft picks are the currency of the NHL. And perhaps Ottawa could have used these prospects as part of a larger package to bring in a better player or a comparable player who has a longer term on his contract. Using this rationale, rumours that Ottawa had interest in Jets winger Evander Kane make sense.

Instead Ottawa gets a player deemed expendable by a middle of the pack Anaheim Ducks team that has for whatever reason, has opted not to use a 26-year old four-time 30-goal scorer as a building block for its franchise.

Yesterday, Wayne Scanlan appeared on our podcast and dispelled those concerns because he felt that more than anything, it was a financial decision on the part of the Ducks. Considering the exorbitant contract extensions that Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf received (Getzlaf especially), there’s some truth here. But, Ryan has been a player who’s been rumoured in trade negotiations for years.

Is it a red flag?

Maybe, maybe not. These things are often overblown, see Turris.

But the two years left on Ryan’s contract presents a problem because fellow first liners Milan Michalek and Jason Spezza will hit unrestricted free agency in 2014 and 2015 respectively. With Ryan scheduled to hit the open market at the same time as Spezza, it puts a ton of pressure on the organization to retain their best offensive forwards. Unfortunately, because of their medical histories, there are persuasive arguments as to why the Senators should be hesitant to give guys like Michalek and Spezza the term and money that they’ll want to avoid testing the market.

And considering that a legacy player like Alfie has moved on, it remains to be seen what kind of effect, if any, this will have on how players – both on the Senators and on other teams – perceive the organization as a viable place to play under stable ownership. For an organization that has done so much good within the past two seasons, it’d be a shame to see it unravel now.

The saving grace is lies in the fact the Senators do look like they’re set up well in the interim.

Alfie’s decision to ‘pursue a Cup’ with the division rival Red Wings could be the ultimate ‘eff you’ that this team needs for motivation this season. And like finishing the final chapter of your favorite book series, the opportunity to move on and start something fresh is alluring.

Like it or not, we were going to have to move on at some point and at this stage of Alfie’s career, he was playing on a year-to-year basis anyways. Like ripping a bandaid off quickly to get the pain over with, maybe it’s better for this organization and its fans to adjust to the situation abruptly, rather than have the whole retirement distraction lingering like a cloud over this team in infinitum.

Benoit Leaves And Corvo Returns

After unrestricted free agent defenceman Andre Benoit signed a one-way contract with the Colorado Avalanche last Friday, the Senators needed to make a corresponding move to bring in another bottom pairing/depth defenceman who can also play on the power play.

No one in Ottawa could have the foreseen the return of Joe Corvo, however.

After infamously coining the nickname ‘Uh oh’ for him, Don Brennan was the first to break the news that Corvo is returning to the Ottawa Senators on a one-year, $900,000 deal

As @brochenski pointed out in a post earlier this afternoon, Corvo didn’t exactly leave the organization on the best of terms. Although my memory recalls Corvo reiterating in one exit interview (or one when he returned to play in Ottawa) that he never formally requested a trade.

Alas, Corvo was moved with Patrick Eaves by Bryan Murray in an attempt to shake up a languishing Senators team that desperately needed a boot in the ass. Instead of breaking up the core of the team, Murray opted to move some spare parts for Cory Stillman and Mike Commodore. (To my knowledge, I believe all footage of Commodore playing in a Senators uniform has been burned and destroyed.)

Preferably, it would have been nice to see the organization retain Benoit because of his familiarity with the organization and his success playing alongside Chris Phillips on the team’s third pair. But, I guess I’ll just have to settle for Corvo and hope that he doesn’t take someone’s head off with an errant slap shot from the point.

Senators Trade Pat Cannone

Today the Senators announced a minor trade with the St. Louis Blues, moving center Pat Cannone for future considerations that will most likely turn out to be a shitty draft pick or cold, hard cash.

For the first time as a pro, Cannone was scheduled to earn a six figure salary, regardless of whether he played in the NHL.

After finishing third on the team in scoring during the 2011/12 season, Cannone had a rather forgettable 2012/13 campaign. (Note: You can probably attribute his lack of production to a diminished role thanks to the presence and emergence of many of Ottawa’s top prospects in Binghamton.)