The NHL trade deadline has come and gone and it was certainly a busy day for the Ottawa Senators.
The day’s events started when as expected, Cory Conacher was plucked from waivers by the… wait for it… Buffalo Sabres. As the team with the worst NHL record, this means that Conacher did make not make it past the team with the highest waiver priority. Given Tim Murray’s relationship with the Senators and his familiarity with Conacher, it’s not a surprise to see how that Conacher was scooped up. It’s just makes it hard to believe that general manager Bryan Murray could not convince some team lower in the waiver priority to fork over a soft pick or some other kind of asset for him.
Ah well, if there’s any silver lining in this, it’s that Ottawa cleared Conacher’s salary and an astoundingly shrewd move acquiring right winger Ales Hemsky from the Edmonton Oilers for a 2015 third round pick and a 2014 fifth round pick. Or in layman’s terms, peanuts. The Ottawa Senators got him for peanuts. Oh, and did I mention that the Edmonton Oilers are retaining half of Hemsky’s salary?
As an aside, how does Edmonton general manager Craig MacTavish not ask for a conditional pick that comes into effect if Hemsky re-signs with Ottawa?
Without it, the Senators got a bargain.
Ottawa’s connection to Hemsky dates back to this past summer when Ottawa allegedly was considering flipping Zack Smith for him. If that was the asking price then, it’s fair to say that it’s a good thing the Senators waited. (And it’s an even better thing that Chris Neil missed Hemsky with that attempted hit last night.)
Sure, there will be those fans who will share Don Brennan’s line of thought.
Hemsky also hasn't scored more than 14 goals in any of the last six seasons. A third and a fifth might be too much
— Don Brennan (@SunDoniB) March 5, 2014
Inevitably, some will scoff at Hemsky’s surface numbers and undervalue his abilities because he’s been brandished as a soft player whose injury history is too lengthy to look past.
It’s rudimentary logic and it completely ignores the fact that Hemsky’s demonstrated in the past that he can be a productive NHL player and that he’s been stuck playing on a shitty Edmonton Oilers club that would suck the life out of any player who’s had to endure years of suck.
Fittingly, Travis Yost discussed Hemsky as a precursor to this year’s deadline for the SenatorsExtra.com analytics column that I’ll also be contributing to. It’s a great read, so be sure to check it out and all the future analytics pieces that will run there. (Shameless plug.)
At the very least, Hemsky represents a low risk, low cost option who has a moderate amount of upside. It’s completely plausible that if he can generate some chemistry playing with Spezza, he has the opportunity to parlay that into a potential extension with the Senators. Think of it in the same context as the trade that Bryan Murray made to acquire Craig Anderson a few seasons ago.
It’s worth mentioning that Hemsky does have some history playing in the nation’s capital. He played for Hull Olympiques for two seasons (2000-2002) and tallied 63 goals and 197 points in 121 games.
The Senators have rented Hemsky a car and he’s making the trip to Calgary where he’ll be in tonight’s lineup versus the Flames. Expect him to play on a line with Jason Spezza and notably, he’ll be the first player in Senators history to wear the number 83.
Phillips Signs Extension
Given how the Daniel Alfredsson situation unfolded this summer, it was not surprising to see Chris Phillips be re-signed to a two-year extension worth $5.0 million.
Does it kind of bother me that the Senators played hardball with their captain and then bent to the terms that Phillips was ultimately looking for? I’d be lying if I said no. However, the organization has been consistent in its praise of Phillips’ leadership and his mentoring abilities – especially when it comes to Cody Ceci’s play and development. So from a PR standpoint, it’s a good move for the Senators and for a player, who ultimately can preserve his legacy as a career Senator.
Phillips’ deal contains a no-trade clause.
Now that Phillips is under contract, one can’t help but acknowledge that the Senators will have five left-shooting defencemen under contract for next season in Patrick Wiercioch, Marc Methot, Jared Cowen, Mark Borowiecki and Phillips.
Something has to give.
Borowiecki’s a high floor/low ceiling kind of player, but the organization loves him because of his intangibles, roots and character. Phillips just re-signed so he’s not going anywhere. I suppose Marc Methot could be a possibility if he and the organization cannot agree to terms on an extension, but in all likelihood, one of Cowen or Wiercioch will probably be dangled in a trade this summer.
Joe Corvo Loaned Out
Shortly before the deadline, the Senators announced that defenceman Joe Corvo has been loaned to the AHL’s Chicago Wolves.
Having cleared waivers, the Senators did have the opportunity to send him to Binghamton. But, Corvo’s an Illinois native, so the organization did right by him to allow him to play at a destination close to his home.
It has not been disclosed yet, but as part of this agreement, it would not be surprising to learn that some of Corvo’s salary will be paid for by the Wolves.
Andre Petersson Dealt
And Erik Karlsson’s circle of Swedish Senator friends just keep getting smaller.
Shortly after the deadline passed, it was reported that the Senators had made a minor trade – moving another Swedish forward prospect in Andre Petersson to the Anaheim Ducks for defenceman Alex Grant.
At the time of the deal, Petersson ranked third amongst Binghamton players in goals (17) and points (44).
I’m not going to lie, Petersson’s offensive skillset always kind of intrigued me. Mind you, this is based off observations of Petersson made during the NHL preseason schedule. Standing out in the preseason isn’t exactly indicative of future NHL success. Just ask Brandon Bochenski.
In Alex Grant, the Senators get a defenceman who was drafted in the fourth round of the 2007 NHL draft (118th overall). He only has two career NHL games under his belt – both of which happened earlier this season –but he has a goal in each of these games. He’s one of the few players in the world who can honestly boast that has a career shooting percentage of 100.0%.
Given Ottawa’s earlier move to acquire Patrick Mullen from the Vancouver Canucks, management is obviously making a concerted effort to buoy Binghamton’s defence for their stretch drive to the AHL playoffs. And yeah, that’s essentially it.
True to Eugene Melnyk’s word, the Senators were “definitely not sellers”.
Despite that proclamation, it was tough not to be skeptical.
Considering the congested Eastern Conference playoff standings and the unlikelihood that the Senators will be able to win the 14 of 20 remaining games to approach the 93 point threshold that should get them into the postseason, I believed that the Senators should have sold.
Whether that meant moving impending UFAs like Michalek or Phillips and trading Colin Greening’s bad contract, I thought the Senators may be able to recoup some draft picks and/or prospects who could be kept by the Senators or moved in a separate deal at a later time.
Of course, my line of thought was predicated on the assumption that the Senators would actually be able to get reasonable value for their players. However, for all the bluster about this trade deadline setting itself up to be a seller’s market, it was shocking to see some of the low prices that teams paid to acquire some very good NHL players.
We’re one year removed from seeing Douglas Murray be moved for two second round picks, but this year, that was the kind of price we saw Thomas Vanek moved for. It’s probably a fair assumption to think that the Senators would have netted a return similar to what Hemsky went for and with this year’s bad draft class, that’s just not great value.
After making the move to acquire Hemsky, the organization may present the move as message to its players that management is giving them the support it needs to chase a playoff spot, but more than anything, it’s simply an audition for Hemsky and an opportunity to extend an undervalued commodity before he hits unrestricted free agency.
Considering the Senators have cap space to spare – $39,939,028 to be exact – they honestly could have matched or bettered some of the deals that were made. All that it would have cost them was some prospects, draft picks and cash.
If there was one recurring theme to the day, it involved the Senators saving cash. From the Conacher claim, to the Senators moving more better draft picks in exchange for the Oilers picking up half of Hemsky’s salary to Joe Corvo being loaned to the Chicago Wolves, Bryan Murray made moves that benefitted the team in the short-term and did it while taking on as little salary as possible.
Given the strict financial constraints imposed by ownership this season, I don’t doubt for a second that ownership mandated that management put a competitive team on the ice while saving as much money as possible. With those circumstances, Bryan Murray made out quite well and he did it without mortgaging the future.
But with money playing such an underlying role today and throughout the course of the season, money continues to be a nagging problem that won’t go away until ownership puts its money where its mouth is and backs up its claim that the money will be there when the Senators can add a player who will make this team more competitive on the ice.