The Seller’s Market: Stewart Rumours & Prince Held Out

Having bookended their Olympic break with two of their most humiliating losses of the season, the uncertain feeling of what the Ottawa Senators would do at the deadline shifted towards, “Ah, these guys can’t be buyers now.”

Sitting eight points back of the first wild card spot occupied by the Toronto Maple Leafs and five points back of the Detroit Red Wings’ second wild card position, it’s hard to believe that the Senators would try and defy the odds by making moves now – especially when they are also separated from these wild card positions by three other Eastern Conference teams that are also vying for a playoff spot.

Using the 93 point threshold as the bar for the Senators to get into the postseason, Ottawa is going to have to win 15 of their next 22 games (.681) to have any chance at reaching this mark.

With such long odds, whatever expectations there were that the Senators would be buyers at the deadline were shelved until TSN’s Bob McKenzie shook up the interwebs on Friday night with rumours of a speculated three-way trade that would involve the Buffalo Sabres, St. Louis Blues and *doing my best Stuntman Stu impression* “Your Ottawa Senators!”

Prior to that, most fans spent the day thinking about Chris Phillips’ future with the organization. As an impending unrestricted free agent (UFA), league scuttlebutt suggested that if Phillips could not agree to a new extension by the deadline, he would be traded.

Pierre Lebrun was TSN radio in Toronto yesterday and indicated that Phillips was looking for multi-year deal while the Senators would preferably like to ink him to a one-year contract. If that deal cannot be made, it is expected that the Boston Bruins will be the frontrunner for Phillips’ services.

According to ESPNBoston.com’s Joe McDonald, the Bruins would have to “surrender a top prospect and a draft pick. Current Providence Bruins forward Ryan Spooner, who has played 22 games for Boston this season, could be the prospect to seal the deal, but it's unlikely the Bruins would part ways with the talented forward.”

And then those McKenzie tweets hijacked everything.

Even as the details of the first phase of the Sabres/Blues trade was completed, Sens fans waited with baited breath to learn whether their team was close to acquiring Chris Stewart or whether he would become a component of some larger package from Buffalo.

McKenzie’s not exactly the kind of guy who will just put things out there like that without having his thumb on the pulse of the situation.

In Pierre Lebrun rumblings blog for ESPN earlier this week, he mentioned that the Senators have reportedly inquired on Stewart when he was with the Blues. The asking price was said to be high and considering Bryan Murray’s reluctance to part with the team’s best prospects, in the words of Lebrun at the time, “nothing is imminent.”

Well, now that Bryan Murray can negotiate with his nephew Tim, maybe those trade negotiations for Stewart will go easier now.

It feels safe to assume that the Senators and Sabres will be making some kind of deal, although its size remains to be seen.

Without really knowing what it would take to acquire Stewart, it’s difficult to assess whether or not prospective trade makes sense for the Senators.

I mean, I put out a reactionary tweet following news that Stewart could wind up in Ottawa writing, “Stewart’s kind of a shitty player.” It was hyperbole on my part, what I should have said was, “Stewart’s the wrong player to target.”

For whatever reason, the Senators appear dead set on solving their endless problem: finding a “power forward” who Jason Spezza can ideally play with.

After failing to develop chemistry with Bobby Ryan in the formative stages of this season, Spezza has also been unable to find the chemistry and production that he enjoyed with Milan Michalek and Colin Greening during the 2011-12 season.

There is absolutely no question that Spezza’s struggles at even strength are an area of concern, but for a team that has the NHL’s seventh worst goal differential, a middle of the pack Close Fenwick For % and averages the third highest number of shots allowed per game in the NHL, I don’t know… maybe it would be a good idea to target players – both forwards and defencemen – who can actually contribute positively in all three zones on the ice and improve this team’s defence.

To Stewart’s credit, he’s put up some decent goal scoring totals through the years. He’s a two-time 28 goal scorer who assuredly would have broken the 20 goal mark last season had it not been shortened because of the lockout. Throughout his career, he’s always hovered around the one goal per sixty minutes of even strength ice-time rate.

Analysts and prognosticators have always praised the forward’s athleticism and quick hands, but his reputation for not imposing himself physically or sustaining a high compete level have dogged him.

Advanced analytics have never really favored Stewart. He’s been a negative Corsi player in five of his six NHL seasons and perhaps most alarmingly, despite a favorable offensive zone start rate and being matched up against some weak competition, Stewart’s been a puck possession killer on what’s otherwise been a pretty good puck possession team in St. Louis. (Note: In St. Louis’ last three seasons, they’ve been a top ten Corsi For % team at even strength.)

Acquiring Stewart would certainly fit with Bryan Murray’s acknowledgment that he is looking to acquire players with term left, however, I can’t help but wonder why the Senators are trying to build around Spezza when he has a year left on his contract and the organization is faced with the decision of whether it should negotiate an extension with him or explore a trade as early as this summer. (Mind you, I’m saying that having made my own opinion that he’s not worth retaining for the price and term that I’m assuming he’d be looking for. Betting on a player at his age with two back operations under his belt just feels like a bad play and as such, perhaps he offers the Senators better value in a trade.)

Instead of burning assets to acquire a piece who doesn’t fix this team’s more obvious and tragic flaws, from an asset management perspective, it might be in Ottawa’s best interests to use these assets instead on bigger areas of need like another top four defenceman.

Shane Prince A Healthy Scratch

For the first time in two months, Shane Prince was held out of the Binghamton Senators’ lineup last night. Prince, if you’ll recall, was the subject of rumours earlier this week that he had asked the Senators for a trade.

Franzen Blasts Neil

The History of Spartacat…

In his most recent Tumblr post, former Senators owner Bruce Firestone revealed a hilarious piece of information pertaining to Spartacat’s history.

“When I ran the Ottawa Senators, our first year mascot was a crazy American who crossed the border illegally to work with us. We didn’t know that at the time.

He was an incredibly energetic mascot inclined to do dangerous stunts including one time not being able to get across the border (having been refused entry to Canada) so he crossed Lake Ontario (really a friggin’ inland sea, folks) in a tiny motorboat and made his gig with about 5 minutes to spare.

He was the Sens most popular “player” in their first season back in the NHL (1992/93) handing out more than 85,000 autographs (paw prints) that year. Our mascot had no problem asking for a salary including bonuses for community appearances of $85,000 for the following year*.”

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