News & Notes: Goaltending, Trade Talk

Here are Robin Lehner’s numbers for the past three seasons:

Season GP GAA EV SV% SH SV% SV%
2011/12 5 2.01 .948 .842 .935
2012/13 12 2.20 .935 .950 .936
2013/14 10 2.33 .940 .927 .940

Notice anything really different?

Aside from a significantly lower save percentage while his team was shorthanded during the 2011/12 season, Lehner’s peripherals have been pretty damn consistent over the past three seasons.

Admittedly, it’s a relatively small body of work to analyze, but that hasn’t stopped the masses from looking at his ten games this season and anointing him as being ‘ready’ to inherit the number one role. Which is pretty funny because we are still talking about a small number of games here and there was nothing within the numbers themselves to ever suggest that he wasn’t ready for the role.

For many, his performance this season coupled with Craig Anderson’s expected regression (albeit, Andy is performing at a level of play that is below his career norm), has led to discussions over whether the Ottawa Senators have a goaltending controversy on their hands.

Truth is, Lehner has the better peripherals and should his level of play continue, it’s should give the organization the confidence and comfort that it needs to move Craig Anderson and then use Andy’s salary to address other holes on the roster.

The problem is, the Sens need to weigh giving themselves the best opportunity to win with playing Andy hoping he improves his trade value over the remainder of the season; setting themselves up to maximize on his value and unload him this offseason.

Of course the rub in all this is that the Senators are desperate to pare salary so that they can make a corresponding move to address a situation of more pressing concern.

During last night’s broadcast, Elliotte Friedman pointed out that the Senators could move Anderson and take on Dubnyk in part of a broader deal to alleviate their strict financial constraints.

(Edit: 12:05 pm: As Twitter follower @mattlavergne pointed out, Dubnyk actually carries a higher annual average cap hit and after upon further examination, he also earns $312,500 more real dollars than Anderson does this season. Unless it's some  kind of larger deal that allows the Senators to move more dead weight to Edmonton, think Jim O'Brien's one-way contract perhaps. Mind you, that still doesn't clear nearly enough money off of the books to alleviate Ottawa's budget issues, so who knows?)

It’s a fair point, but one that also underlines that none of this unforeseen. It’s easy to say now that the Senators may have put themselves in a more flexible financial position by choosing to move the aging, more expensive goaltender who was in the midst of a great statistical season and turn the reins over to the two younger goaltenders whose numbers were equally impressive.

I mean, if the Senators were more than comfortable letting Gonchar go and allowing Jared Cowen, a player coming off major hip surgery and Patrick Wiercioch, Gonchar’s regular partner last season, to play tough top four minutes, the thought of moving Anderson instead of Bishop isn’t a stretch.

There’s no question that it would have been a gamble, but it would have been a calculated risk. If payroll limitations and the budget allocated on players was going to be strict, moving Anderson, who assuredly would have had a higher trade value than Ben Bishop, to maximize the return and create cap flexibility in the process might have the smarter move for a small market team that can’t afford to allocate its dollars inefficiently. Furthermore, knowing that Lehner was going to be the guy eventually would have necessitated moving him at some point before his contract expired anyway.

It’s all hindsight, but for some, the real goaltending controversy isn’t who deserves to start; it’s whether they waited too long to move Anderson.

HNIC Hotstove….

During last night’s second intermission, the Hockey Night in Canada Hotstove Panel hit on the Senators’ financial situation and once again acknowledged that if this can make a deal, they have to clear salary or it has to be a dollar-for-dollar trade. Please note that the Senators portion of the segment begins at around the 3:18 mark.

If you don’t want to watch the video, here’s the gist of what was said…

Elliotte Friedman: “And the other team that I just wanted to mention was Ottawa. I believe there was a conversation between the Senators and the Rangers about Michael Del Zotto. I don’t necessarily think that’s going anywhere. And all of the Hemsky rumours, I don't think that's going to happen either because Ottawa just can't afford to do that at this point in time.”

Glenn Healy: “Well, we’ve talked about Zibanejad and if they need a player who’s available, Hemsky is a player and it’s a deal that should be made.”

I did not watch the opening segment where I’m assuming that they talked about Zibanejad being promoted to Spezza’s line, however what I inferred from Healy’s comments wasn’t that they were going to move Zibanejad in a Hemsky deal, it’s that if Zibanejad didn’t perform with Spezza, Hemsky’s a guy that Ottawa could target.

Unless I missed something that would suggest Ottawa would be willing to move Zibanejad (please let me know if I did), I can't envision the player who they were so hesitant to move in any Bobby Ryan trade would suddenly be available a quarter of the way through this NHL season.

Larry Brooks’ Latest…

Interestingly, there were a few nuggets of information in the New York Post’s Larry Brooks column. Within the column, he refers to Ottawa as the most disappointing team in the Eastern Conference.

(Nods head)

Brooks also points out that the Rangers would have interest in Marc Methot and Chris Neil.

“Apparently Daniel Alfredsson is to Ottawa — the NHL’s most disappointing team — as Mark Messier was to the 1997-98 Rangers.

If the Senators would care to part with Mark Methot, general manager Bryan Murray might want to hit Glen Sather’s digits.

* * *

Every team in the East must measure itself against Boston and the prospect of going best-of-seven with the Big Bad Bruins.

Which is why Chris Neil, who does have a limited no-trade in Ottawa, is of definite value to the wanna-B’s of the conference, most certainly including the Rangers.”

Hmmmmmmmm, it’s not even December yet and the Sens are what, currently four points out of the playoff picture? It’s hardly the time to be peddling those kinds of veterans, especially because they are under team control beyond this season.

As one friend put it, “you may as well add Ovechkin and Crosby to that list.”

But, let’s entertain the possibility for the sake of

The homegrown Methot has another year on his contract and because he plays prominent minutes with Erik Karlsson on the top pairing, I can’t see the Senators being willing to part with him barring a ridiculous ransom.

In regards to Neil, it’s difficult to really peg what Ottawa would be willing to do. He brings the dimensions that every team typically loves to add for the playoff stretch, and because of that, the Sens could potentially maximize the return should a team really overvalue those contributions. And eventually, the Senators are going to have to create room in their bottom six to bring up some of their prospects in the AHL who are on the cusp. Now with that being said, the likelihood that the Sens trade Neil, who has two more years left on his deal, is remote. 

Finally… 

In case you haven't noticed, I've been doing Senators Gameday Previews over at SenatorsExtra.com. If you haven't done so, please check them out. 

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