Roundtable of Dead: Trade Deathline Edition

Monty Hall rocking that dope Ottawa 67s tie tho

Art for this post by Banksy

In which Luke, Varada, Chet, and James all reflect on the fact that the Ottawa Senators did nothing at the trade deadline. It’s very zen.

Luke:

Boy, was that ever a trade deadline, eh guys? Teams made trades, and now they can’t. Real circle of life stuff. While Bryan Murray’s usual deadline M.O. (That’s “modus operandi”, by the way. Latin: for when you’re worried you’re not pretentious enough.) is to make a surface level move that’s ultimately ineffectual, looks like this is the year when he realized not making a move can accomplish the same thing. Celebrate the moments of our deadlines/possessing 2nd round picks.

Listening to Bryan Murray, he seems to regard the team’s current playoff push as a deer that will come and eat out of his hand as long as he stands very still and doesn’t look it in the eye. You can practically see the wheels turning in his head as he ponders what exactly it means that the team has gone on its most productive (in terms of points) stretch of the season with Chris Neil, Chris Phillips, Zack Smith, both starting goalies, Jared Cowen, and Clarke MacArthur out with injuries of various severity. (Note: Cowen’s suspension really more of a wallet injury.) While The Bryan said he took calls on Erik Condra, he ultimately decided not to mess with locker room chemistry and deferred the decision on Condra’s future in Ottawa to this summer. As a matter of fact, every decision has now been deferred to the summer, and that’s hardly surprising. The Contractual Dead Weight We Would All Like To See Moved such as Numbers 4, 25, 17, 15, 74, and 62 all have too much term remaining on their contracts, too much money remaining on their contracts, or both. As such, it was always going to be difficult to move any of those players during the season, although I must admit it would have been nice. Erik Condra was Ottawa’s only rental of note, and no one really wanted to see him go. Therefore, as the Ottawa Senators have not been made demonstrably worse, nor their future made any darker than it was the day before yesterday, I’m going to chalk this deadline up as a success. Congratulations, Bryan Murray. You did not screw up, and thus have won my begrudging approval.

Holy hell has this coming summer ever been put sharply in focus, though. I remember last summer being regarded as the most important in Bryan Murray’s tenure, as the Senators had to navigate the treacherous waters of trading their captain and re-signing Bobby Ryan, Clarke MacArthur, Robin Lehner, Craig Anderson, and Milan Michalek. To the team’s credit those things all got done whether we wanted them to or not. Now Ottawa has to sign RFAs Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone, Mika Zibanejad, Derek Grant, and Jean-Gabriel Pageau, in addition to figuring out what to do with guys like Zack Smith, David Legwand, and Chris Phillips who may not have a spot on the roster any more. Also, Alex Chiasson exists. Also also, the team still needs another Top 4 defenseman, but they already have too many defensemen. Also also also, another elite forward wouldn’t go astray. This summer is when the crops we plant will really come home to roost, and we find out just how good I am with farming metaphors. The Senators are gonna have to pull some serious Michael Corleone at The End of The Godfather shit just to free up the necessary roster space and cash to improve via internal promotion, let alone improve via trade. As much as I love and admire Bryan Murray, I don’t know if he’s the wartime consigliere we need at this pivotal time. He’s talking nebulously about having to move “a veteran” this summer when I was rather hoping he’d be talking about moving “some veterans”.

Where are you guys at on this? Talk to me about your #feelings.

Varada:

Can I confess something here? Indulge me, please:

If I was an NHL GM in Bryan Murray’s place right now, I…..would not know what to do.

I know, our blog is predicated on unimpeachable credentials and a 110% accuracy rate, so this must be shocking to our readers. But it’s true. Because the team’s current run has all of the trappings of an existential crisis.

See: Team with a lot of weaknesses EXCEPT goaltending loses BOTH excellent goaltenders and puts middling AHL goalie into the game and receives BETTER goaltending and improves. Simultaneously, all teams ahead them, who’ve been underachieving all season, start also winning their games, effectively wiping out the impact of Sens’ win streak on the standings.

If a win happens at the same time as another win, did the win ever even happen in the first place? Do we not define ourselves against the mirror of the Other, who must also remain fundamentally alien? Does anyone every truly win the game of capitalism? It’s all very confusing, like Camus’ The Plague, and if I was Camus I wouldn’t know what to do either. I’d probably leave that town. Everyone has the plague.

So ultimately a team with some underwhelming players, but nobody on a particularly egregious contract, stays the same. Big whoop. I can live with Colin Greening being our ‘bad’ contract. I can live with Phillips and Neil, even though I too wish they hadn’t be re-signed. I can live with the approximately $10MM of contracts that are providing about $6MM worth of value. Because, in related news, Ryan Callahan makes like $6MM or something, right? I can live with Cowen. But then I haven’t been watching the games.

Basically everything outside of the top 15 picks in the draft is a lottery ticket, and nobody we had up for grabs would have gotten us more than maybe a second rounder, tops, so it’s hard to get too worked up.

If I can comment on the MEDIA EXPERIENCE that is Deadline Day…I think it might be time to give up the ghost on squeezing programming, let alone competing programming, let alone a day of it, out of something where literally nothing happens. This isn’t like the time TSN got the rights to the World Juniors and turned it into a legitimate Event everyone loves now. This is taking the part of sports that almost nobody really likes – the part where former players and GMs work themselves into a froth over some minor move – and turns it into the central thing.

I’m imagining a world where one of the competing networks, at the last minute, sort of says: “Ladies and gentleman…and OHL game” and we’re all like “Hey, OHL hockey’s actually a lot more fun than NHL hockey!”

Chet:

The trade deadline is important because it reminds us what drew us to hockey in the first place, as little boys and little girls, and that is our deep-down love of ASSET MANAGEMENT.

Who doesn’t remember watching with child-like wonder as their team stockpiled fifth-round picks? Riding bikes with friends and arguing about who’d make a pro front office first? Daydreaming in church, picturing yourself under the big lights, the seconds ticking down, everything on the line, and suddenly figuring out how to use LTIR space to accommodate another pro-rated signing bonus?

What happened to us? Sure, there’s virtue in being an ant instead of a grasshopper, working constantly to guard against future uncertainties and treating austerity as its own reward. But I look at our reactions to a quiet deadline day for the Senators, at our endless hand-wringing over small opportunities missed, and I wonder if we’re even being ants at this point. We’ve rocketed past metaphor and into a world where we’re all trying to find buyers for expiring grasshoppers, while they’ve still got some value, so we can make room for next year’s ants and maybe scoop up a few more chances to draft a grasshopper in 2017, since it’s projected to be such a deep swarm.

I mean, I understand. When the big picture isn’t rosy, we distract ourselves by focusing on little details in the corner of the frame. But I think Bryan Murray looked at the market today and realized no amount of grinding things out on the margin would materially improve that big picture. Rebuilding a team takes a long time, but it still usually starts by selling off assets that other teams, y’know, VALUE, and the Senators don’t have any of those.

What surprises me, looking at the years-long slog ahead to turn the Senators into something more than a coin flip between 6th and 11th in the east every year, is that Bryan Murray didn’t just say to hell with it and go the other way. Seven points out, 71 years old, eight defencemen, stage four, first star of the week . . . didn’t we basically crunch these same numbers last year? What was stopping him from working out version 2.0 of the Ales Hemsky deal, where we waive Condra and ask Phillips to fake his own death for two months, giving us enough nickels to rub together to pay for six weeks of Curtis Glencross? How is that any less rational than liquidating veterans to scrape together a few more conditional seventh-round picks to use on guys who’ll quit and go into landscaping when they realize they’ll probably make more money? Principal-agent problem? What?

The truth is nothing Bryan Murray could have done today would likely have made the Senators better, now or going forward. Instead, give him credit for realizing that the team would have been equally poorly-served by selling low on Wiercioch or Condra, whether he intends to be here next year or not. Today was not a day to shape the future. That day is coming, probably this summer when the team has to figure out how to keep its group of young, rapidly-appreciating RFA forwards together. And while reality television has tried to convince us that choosing between rich, attractive young bachelors is a fun, sexy problem to have, the truth is it’s generally a difficult process, full of harsh words, hurt feelings, and unromantic negotiations. And THAT’S what Bryan Murray began steeling himself for today.

James:

Hi, I’m very sick today (and not in the way like how Ovi describes anything he’s in favor of) and you’ve all already made great points so prepare from an excellent contribution from yours truly (me),

If I were to write a local news-style headline that explained my feelings about Bryan Murray’s performance or lack there of on deadline day it would be this:

LRT Expansion Faces Key Hurdle To— wait, wrong blog…

k,

it would be this:

Area Man Does What He Said He Would.

I mean, overall it’s not like a deadline day will ever pass where NOTHING happens but that the most shocking or interesting trades (IMO E Kane trade or Toronto somehow getting Clarkson off the books & CBJ trading most of a mannequin in return) happened before deadline day really speaks to what Varada was saying about media attention. It’s a little rich that TSN and Sportnets (?) stop everything they’re doing and devote virtually uninterrupted coverage to it the entire day. Does ESPN even do this with the baseball or two baskets ball deadline? Honest question. I bet if they do it’s boring as h_ck. All that fanfare for most of it ending up being dudes bantering on about “Asking price too high on Phaneuf?” or “OMG you guys, do you think Jordan Eberle would go to the dance with an established top 4 defender or prospects with conditional picks?” As we saw today the actual events that happen are mostly trash like “Rene Bourque to the Kentucky Thoroughblades for Lukasz Futureconsiderinsky”.

A day of know-it-alls bullshitting about what GMs should/should not/might do with no satisfying outcome? We already have Twitter for that (hi!). What was talking about again? Oh yes, my second divorce…no…it was Bryan Murray.

Today didn’t really have much of an effect on me one way or the other because BMurr had pretty consistently said for weeks that he wasn’t likely to do anything of significance. I think Chris Neil breaking his thumb really wrecked the possibility of anything happening. Do teams have interest in Chris Neil? Honestly, I think so. Do they have interest in injured Chris Neil? Probably not. Do they have interest in injured Chris Neil with additional contract term beyond this season? This brings me to my next point. I was doubtful from the get-go that anyone other than maybe Condra would get dealt because virtually no one on the block was a rental. Have all the cokedreams you want about clearing the roster of Neil, Phillips, Legwand, Michalek, probably Wiercioch or Cowen too. Truth is no one knows what’s going to happen with the Cap next year (thanks Putin) and no GM is taking significant salary and term beyond spring for our spare parts. When Zack Smith might be your best candidate for a “Hockey Trade” (a term now punishable by death btw) expect nothing more than some other team’s Sack Zmith who has identical salary/term coming back the other way. Mike Milbury’s gone and Garth Snow’s supposedly smart now. Shit’s quiet.

So if you feel me on those players not getting trade offers likely due to their term, then it follows that a few of them will actually be easier to get rid of next year when they are rental pickups. Yes the idea of heading into 2015 training camp with a lot of those guys on books sucks but as Chris Coldplay from the band Martin rapped “Nobody said it was eazayyy”.

Plus, I think future city councilors Chris Neil and/or Phillips would be way more open to leaving for a few months next season rather than a whole extra year after this one. And Legwand? Legwand will be one year older…and…did I mention he had 51 points last year? Good for him…siiiiiiigh…OUTRAGEOUS.

Anyway, Murray also said the offers he received for Condra, Wiercioch simply weren’t good enough for them. As a fan I’m kind of glad to hear that as Condra and Wiercioh are good, useful players. Don’t give them away just “because.” Plus, if you heard the post deadline presser Murray made it clear the off season is still well open for discussion. Condra stays with his nice trio with Pageau and Lazar and Wiercioch gets a longer audition to ….raise his trade value.

As to Chet’s point, I’m also a little surprised Murray exercised the patience to say to the group, “You’re close to the playoffs…let’s see you all make a go of it without Olli Jokinen riding in on a chariot from the Finnish equivalent of heaven to put us over the top.” I mean he was in an oddly similar situation last year and he made a play for Hemsky who with 17 points in 20 games could not have stepped right in and delivered better and the Sens still ended the season 5 points out. Just four less than they currently do. So if by some miracle the boys do it and get a Wildcard spot hey, that’s why Jah created horse races on the 10th day. If not, this past stretch has been pretty positive development wise. Young players are finding their way, the new coach hates Neil and Phillips and kiiiind of Legwand and is not afraid to scratch or bench them anyway and we have rookie to extend who might end up with 30 goals. If room has to be made to get the right RFA’s signed deals can still potentially get done in the off season. Since Spezza was dealt I must say, Ottawa got all their big deals done. I think they’ll find a way to keep the key RFAs even if means making a move that wasn’t made today.

3 thoughts on “Roundtable of Dead: Trade Deathline Edition

  1. Pingback: Ottawa Senators Off-Ice Power Rankings – March 2015 |

  2. That was a fun blog .. thanks for the chuckles .. Any one noticed there is a new BIG RIG restaurant at the Gloucester center. Good on the big rig himself for having success.
    We need to thank Karlsson’s new gf for making him happy again after a nasty divorce.
    He’s all smiles now and good to go.

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