It’s no secret that Ottawa needs to re-tune its defence. It gives up more shots on net than any team in the league save Buffalo, who are looking historically bad. They’ve been bailed out by incredible goaltending and timely scoring, and will surely be helped out by the return of Marc Methot, but a move on the backend is still worth some irresponsible speculation. Come with us, won’t you, on a journey to the unverifiable and borderline delusional.
What could Ottawa give up?
So, it’s not like Ottawa doesn’t have healthy bodies on the backend. They’re just not terribly good ones, or at least not good as they’re currently being used together. Which is why we’re in the odd position here of suggesting that Ottawa could fix its defence by trading its defencemen, which you would think would either dilute said defence or not get you anything of value back.
…and you might be right, if you said that. The weird thing is, some of these defencemen, in a vacuum of their potential and their ceiling, are pretty valuable.
Jared Cowen is a top ten pick, a big body, and a player who supposedly has all the tools and just hasn’t been able to put it together yet. He could be dominant for…somebody. Ottawa inexplicably started paying him like a top four defencemen before he ever solidified his place in the lineup, so I imagine it’s difficult to move a $3MM+ healthy scratch. But as part of a package, Cowen could have value.
Patrick Wiercioch is another toughie—making $2MM to be a strategically employed puck mover and second-unit powerplay quarterback. Ottawa has given him plenty of time and exposure over the last several games, and he hasn’t looked horrendous, but I also can’t imagine the phone is ringing off the hook for him at this point.
Marc Methot is more interesting. A verifiable top four, maybe even top two guy, with lots of character and experience who seems to be holding out on a new contract for the sake of $300k a year. Ottawa is super sensitive about contract disputes at this point, and are more likely to move a player than lose him for nothing, especially given he’s already missed camp and the first 10% of the season. I could see a team wanting to take a chance on being able to re-sign Methot, and even a nice little market developing for him.
Also, Ottawa has that extra 2015 second round pick from the Spezza deal, in what is supposed to be a deep draft. Murray loves trading second rounders as, to be fair, do we all.
Who could Ottawa target?
Assuming here that Ottawa wants to target a defenceman as opposed to a forward (though I can get behind doing everything in our power to put Brayden Schenn in a Sens uniform), there are a few options out there. These are players on underperforming teams who, like Cowen, Wiercioch, or Methot, might just need a change of scenery. I know I don’t need to say that none of these scenarios are likely, but…there you go.
Dennis Wideman is on an expensive deal—more than $5MM for three more seasons—and at 31 is not getting any younger. But he’d be a serviceable secondary puck mover behind Karlsson, and has looked good in the young season without much to work with in Calgary.
Keith Yandle has been in the rumor mill for what feels like forever. Like Wideman, he’d be a great puck mover, and is better than Wideman for the same price tag and one less year on his deal. His +/- isn’t very impressive, especially on a team playing Tippet’s defensive system and with Mike Smith giving them above league-average goaltending, and Ottawa has a history dealing with Arizona, and Yandle could be a coup. He won’t come cheap, though.
Tyler Myers has been pretty bad for a long time, and is on another long and expensive deal, but he’s still young and has known nothing but a bad Buffalo team during his career. The only reason I really put him here is that Tim Murray is familiar with Sens players and might be able to see beyond the stat line on someone like Cowen. Admittedly, in-division deals are super rare.
Dustin Byfuglien has seemingly been on the trade block forever. (Is Winnipeg still playing him at forward? Does Winnipeg actually hate 50% of the players on their roster?) He’s got great underlying possession numbers, and the wheels seem to have finally come off of the wagon in Winnipeg. If they start moving out some of their core guys, Byfuglien would be a great player to target. Plus he’s fat, which is hilarious, because fat pro athletes are always hilarious.
Brian Campbell apparently wants out of Florida, is a workhorse who plays 25+ minutes a night, and has good underlying numbers. He’s expensive as hell, and Florida might not want to trade within the division, but he played for the 67s, so he automatically goes on this list for reasons that have nothing to do with reality or feasibility.
Tim Gleason was on Ottawa’s radar at the trade deadline a couple of seasons ago, and can probably be pried away for a smaller package. Carolina is having a terrible year already, but with all of their injuries, regressing goaltending, and instability all the way up through management, it might not be that their defence is truly awful. On the other hand, his possession stats are…truly awful.
Let me consult my Matrix boxed set
Ultimately, Ottawa may wish to stand pat, wait for Methot to get back into the lineup, and flip part of their surplus on D for a scoring forward. Or Ottawa’s propensity to give up 36 shots a game might result in them starting to lose games, which is usually what happens, in which case the whole strategy shifts and we start writing posts about prospects. But in the meantime, fire up those speculation machines (AKA the internet) and dare to dream, lovers.