By Sylvain Godin | SWP Journal Staff
We're just over two weeks away from the NHL's trade deadline, and one has to face the facts: The Senators are sellers and they have a lot of interesting choices to make:
Who can be traded away? Who can be held onto to see if they can sign the player? Who do they want to sign and will no doubt push hard on keeping?
I'd like to play a little game in this article called, “Here/Maybe/Gone.” (Look, it’s been a long night, and names aren’t my forte. Bear with me, here.) Today I will touch upon two players that they should keep, two players for the “maybe” pile and two players they'll most likely trade. This will allow us to get an idea as to who will be here beyond the trade deadline. I’ll also discuss where the player could be best suited and what kind of return you can expect out of the player. First, we need to set parameters: These are players that are either UFA at the end of the year. We will not touch on circumstantial “what ifs” right now as those become convoluted and very much an armchair GM game. For that, let’s list who's on the block:
Mikkel Boedker Vladislav Namestnikov Jean-Gabriel Pageau Tyler Ennis Scott Sabourin Ron Hainsey Mark Borowiecki Dylan DeMelo Cody Goloubef Craig Anderson
Dylan DeMelo: DeMelo is a good, stable presence on the blue line that will allow the up and coming defensemen to learn from a good pro. When he was out of the lineup, we've seen just how poor defensively the Senators have been, and this just seems like a no brainer. While the market could potentially get you some interesting prospects, it is highly unlikely that you will be scoring a 1st rounder, which would be my ask for him. DeMelo needs to be kept at a low term rate (3-4 years, 4 mil).
Tyler Ennis: I like the player. Ennis has quietly fulfilled his role as a mid-line player, amassing 30 points in 52 games. That’ll be good for nearly 50 points at a very reasonable salary (800k). Ennis is a buy-low candidate. He could be looking into cashing in elsewhere but he knows he has the chance to play important minutes here in Ottawa. Is he a future core player? I’m not so sure. But, for now, you need to keep some players. With a few of the above players and I don’t mind giving him a deal that would see him stay here for 3-4 years at around the same amount as DeMelo: $3-4 million.
This is where it gets dicey. There’s a lot to consider here: What does the player do for the team? What can you get for the player? Which other players have already been traded? All we know is that Sens' GM Pierre Dorion is on the record saying that they ‘will’ speak to their UFA about contracts. But there are a few players that you kinda go, ‘Hmm’ on that haven’t signed at all. I’ll take a gander below as to who I think fall in this category.
Mark Borowiecki: This is tough. Borocop is probably one of my favourite Senators players: He’s a heart and soul kind of guy who will give you his all on the ice. He may not be the point-getter and yeah, he won’t be a goal scorer most years (albeit right now he leads the Senators defencemen in goals in an odd season), but you need a veteran presence on the back end to help the kids.. However, there are a lot of teams out there that would love a heart and soul guy like Boro, and that edge and toughness are always nice to have during the playoffs when you go deep. You know what you are getting in Borowiecki: a 6-7 D to take some minutes off your top guys and give you his best.
So, what stops us from going and putting him in the 'yes' pile? For one, he’s getting long in the tooth; you will get him in decline considering the man has a lot of mileage on his body. While he is a health nut, at some point his playing style will grind him down. And, if he’s not able to do what you want him to do right now, it’s hard to want to re-up him. Two, he probably isn’t going to fetch you a whole lot in a trade. You’ll be getting, at most, a mid-tier pick and most likely not in this year’s draft. And if he does not want to re-sign with the team that you’re sending him to, having a rental makes it even tougher to swallow.
My best guess is that Borowiecki is not going to get traded and will stay in Ottawa for the rest of the year. At this point, Boro and Dorion will sit down and decide where to go from here and see if he has a future here with the Senators. But he won’t get traded unless Dorion really gets blown away. I do consider it if someone’s offering a third-round pick in this year’s draft, however.
Vladislav Namestnikov: Here is a curious case where the Senators might be able to simply buy low for a mid-tier player that has been decent for the Sens. While his name has been floated around in the market, I don’t honestly think you’re going to get that much from a 22-point player who can sometimes be a defensive liability. With a cap hit of $3.2 million, not many teams want to clear that much cap space for a guy who probably won't be in their top 6.
Ottawa may be asked to keep a bit of the salary if they want to slip this guy to a third or fourth line on a contender and even then, what’s the point? It’s not really his game. No, at this point, I don’t think you’ll really get serious offers on the player. I’d be curious to see if you could get him at a lower price range for a couple more years here before moving on. I’m generally intrigued by the player.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau: I’m sorry to say but I don’t honestly think Pageau stays beyond this trade deadline. The reason is simple: He could help a lot of contending teams and, in truth, he is a third-line center playing on a team that is giving him first and second-line minutes. He’s completely playing above his paygrade and good on him. But he’s going to price himself completely out of reach for the Senators and will seek to go elsewhere. Pageau is one of the few Senators who could fetch a first-round pick in this year’s draft. While a lot of people would bemoan losing another homegrown player, Ottawa will not want to agree to the salary he will demand. I’d get a bidding war going as soon as possible with teams like Edmonton that need a good 2/3C and see how much I can get out of it.
Craig Anderson: Anderson has been the stalwart of the Sens' back end for years now, carrying the title of the most wins in franchise history. But his time has come where he should be able to go challenge for a cup as a backup or even support a number one someone as a 1B. Let’s face it: While Anderson’s numbers don’t shine, the team's numbers don't either nor do they help him. If you can get him surrounded by a strong defensive core, Anderson will be able to bail you out in key moments. At this point, what will Anderson get you? If you can get a 5th in this year’s draft, run with it.
End thoughts: Everything could go sideways easily if, say, Pageau comes out and says he’ll take a discount and stay here for another 4 years at 5.5 million. You jump on that asap! But I feel like this is roughly where the group is at right now. You have to evaluate where your team is and when exactly you need to give out the good contracts. Other contracts and players are coming up in the pipeline that you hope to take over. While you really hope Logan Brown is your 1 or 2, having him at 3, where Pageau should be slotted, isn’t a bad thing and will allow you to keep the price low until you’re ready to compete in a few years.
As a GM, you obviously have to be smart about when to pull the trigger on long contracts. Some of these players peaked and got going at the wrong time. So they'll fetch a much better return instead of shackling you with a contract that makes no sense. We’ll see on February 24th exactly where things go, but I expect a much different team than the one we see today.