Shortly after Bob McKenzie tweeted that Cory Conacher and Joe Corvo were seen meeting with Ottawa staff and explained that no trade was imminent, but both players could be put on waivers, TVA Sports’ Renaud Lavoie confirmed that both players had been put on waivers.
It’s a bitter pill for Senators fans to swallow.
Cory Conacher has not even been claimed by another team yet, but instinctually, Sens fans are going to use this opportunity to delve back into the organization’s decision to move Ben Bishop at last year’s trade deadline.
To briefly rehash the context and motivation of last season’s deal, an injury plagued Senators team that was devoid of two of its top six forwards — Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek – sacrificed one of its strengths (goaltending) so that it could acquire a player who they expected could contribute some secondary scoring and help give the team an offensive boost as they pushed for the playoffs.
Regardless of which goaltender you believe should have been moved, Robin Lehner’s performance last season gave management the confidence and motivation to reward him by clearing a path for him to play in the National Hockey League. In doing so, the Senators ignored the flexibility that his two-way contract provided and instead, opted to move Ben Bishop for immediate help rather than wait until the summer to make a decision on which goaltender to move.
Leading up to the deadline, all indications pointed to a second round pick being one of the popular trade chips that was being offered to the Senators for Bishop. Thanks to the work of their player development and amateur scouting staffs, the Senators developed a deep farm system featuring many players who were on the cusp of playing in the NHL.
Thanks to this depth, Bryan Murray felt less compelled to settle on a draft and instead settled on Tampa Bay’s offer of Cory Conacher and a fourth round pick after talks with Philadelphia broke down.
@6thSens Had Couturier until Holmgren backed out last minute.
— Steve Lloyd (@TSNSteveLloyd) March 4, 2014
The Senators overlooked the statistical warning signs that Conacher might not be as good as his numbers suggested.
- He played 40-percent of his even strength minutes in Tampa on a line with Steven Stamkos
- Amongst Tampa forwards who have played in 20 or more games this season, Conacher has played against the second easiest competition.
- His has a shooting percentage of 17.0%, scoring 9 goals on 53 shots.
- He has the fifth-highest offensive zone start percentage on the team at 54.3%.
- When on the ice at 5v5, he and his teammates have an on-ice shooting percentage of 10.41%.
Here in Ottawa, Conacher never really found his niche. Brought in for that offence, he never produced at a level that warranted playing him in the top six and he was never the big, physical winger that Bryan Murray covets.
Pegged as a player with offensive upside, it never materialized in Ottawa. If anything, whether he was caught up in the playoff race or trying to play ‘playoff hockey’ but at times, it seemed like Conacher was focused on was being a shift-disturbing pest. And with the number of smaller forward prospects already within Ottawa’s system in Mike Hoffman, Stephane Da Costa, Shane Prince and Jean-Gabriel Pageau, you have to wonder whether Conacher would ever have been anything more than a short-term fit.
I’ll give Bryan Murray some credit though, some managers would hold onto the player simply because moving him draws attention to the original deal and invites criticism for a personnel decision gone wrong, but Murray let him go and is willing to move on from a mistake.
But what’s curious is that Conacher’s underlying metrics point to a player who has been more useful than a number of other players on the parent roster who are a product of the Senators’ development system. So maybe his margin for error was smaller than those who’ve also underwhelmed this season but are valued because of their tenure in the organization or their character and/or physical tools. *cough, cough* Colin Greening *cough, cough*
Although Conacher’s 5.7 shooting percentage is well below his career average (10.9) and his 0.33 goals per sixty minutes of five-on-five ice-time places him 18th amongst skaters on the Senators, he’s been a positive possession player. His 53.8 Corsi For Percentage is the fifth highest on the team per ExtraSkater.
Proportionate to his ice-time while playing at even strength, Conacher’s 1.11 points per sixty minutes of ice-time was also the sixth highest rate on the team. Had his shooting percentage ever normalized to standards resembling what we’ve seen at the NHL level, perhaps he would not have fallen out of favour with management.
It’s safe to presume the Senators scoured the trade market before exposing Conacher on waivers, but now that he’s essentially available for free, I’d have to imagine some team will be willing to take a flyer on a relatively inexpensive player who has some decent underlying numbers. There’s essentially no risk to be had here. If he doesn’t work out, the team does not have to qualify him as a restricted free agent – meaning that they can simply walk away from the player this summer.
Whatever the case, the Senators made a decision to move on from Conacher and it seems like they’ll use his roster spot (assuming he’s claimed) on a trade acquisition or a promoted prospect from Binghamton.
If there’s a lesson to be learned from any of this, it’s the realization that in some events, it’s never prudent to flippantly throwaway assets to fix a short-term problem, especially when the organization that you’re managing probably isn’t destined for big things in that season because of the circumstances they were dealt (ie. injuries).
I guess we’ll see whether Bryan Murray learned that lesson tomorrow.
A Thought on Corvo
A friend of mine brought up a great point today in conversation regarding the moves to waive Joe Corvo and Cory Conacher. Would the Senators waive Joe Corvo if they weren’t planning on re-signing Chris Phillips?
Senators Make Minor Deal…
The Senators and Vancouver Canucks made a small trade today. Ottawa traded unsigned collegiate prospect Jeff Costello for 27-year old defenceman Patrick Mullen.
When the biggest news to come of the deal is that Mullen is the son of former NHLer Joe Mullen, it’s pretty insignificant. Well, unless the Senators are looking to stack up on the progeny of players from those early 1990’s Stanley Cup winning teams. Quick, does anyone know if Kevin Stevens has any kids?
In all seriousness, don’t expect Mullen to don a Senators jersey anytime soon. With an injury to Mark Borowiecki and Fredrik Claesson’s suspension, the Binghamton Senators needed to add some depth to their defence as they make their push to the playoffs.
For what it’s worth, Costello was Ottawa’s fifth round pick in 2009. He’s currently a senior at the University of Notre Dame.
Former Senators prospect David Rundblad, the centerpiece of the package that Ottawa sent to the Phoenix Coyotes in the infamous Kyle Turris trade, was dealt today by Phoenix to the Chicaco Blackhawks. In exchange, the Coyotes will receive only a second rounder in a crappy draft class in return.
Rundblad obviously has his limitations as a player and at this stage of his career, he needs to play regularly and develop at the NHL level – something that admittedly will be difficult in Chicago – but for a player with his gifted offensive skillset, it’s a great gamble by the Blackhawks.
Eugene Melnyk Meets with Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister
The Senators owner, a Ukrainian-Canadian reportedly met with Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Kiev’s Ambassador to Canada.