Your Half-Assed Guide to Improving the Defense at Discount Prices

I went on a brief but fun Twitter rant yesterday after spending several minutes thinking about the state of Ottawa’s blue line in the context of the rest of the league. Only once I had finished screaming into the ether did I realize that I’d missed a prime opportunity to create content, and though I hate repeating myself, I don’t hate it as much as I enjoy listening to myself talk.

So in case you missed it, here’s some ideas about how to improve Ottawa’s defense at discount prices.

I will begin by stating the following facts:

1. Ottawa’s problems on the blue line are in no way unique. As much as we’ve been blessed with many “Are the Sens wasting Erik Karlsson’s prime?” pieces over the past months, there are other teams such as the New York Rangers and Edmonton Oilers who should be striving to improve their defense before their high-end talent loses their fastballs.

2. Even though there is no shortage of need, player movement is at an all-time low. The Rob Scuderi for Trevor Daley trade was nothing more than a replacement level player for a less-than-replacement level player. Similarly, Luke Schenn’s inclusion in the Vincent Lecavalier deal wasn’t the domino that needed to fall in order to really open up the trade market. Even as Seth Jones was traded hours after Schenn, the asking price on that deal was prohibitively high. If you didn’t have a highly skilled and slightly disgruntled star forward kicking around, that deal was never going to come off. In short, it is a seller’s market.

3. It isn’t easy to improve your defense. Everyone would do it if it were easy.

4. Ottawa really only needs a 3-4 defenseman who is solid, and reasonably priced. Of course, those types of players are really rare and valuable so good luck trying get one away from any other team.

Since Ottawa’s never going to be able to get a Hamonic or a De Haan or a Shattenkirk (Ed note: gotta hear both sides) or a Hjalmarsson or a Tanev or a Boychuk or An Established 2nd Pairing Player without paying a prohibitively high price, I suggest they do what they did when they acquired Marc Methot: trade for a player who is currently being used in a 3rd pairing role who may be able to be used in a 2nd pairing role. “Exploiting market inefficiencies” has hardly been considered a revolutionary strategy ever since that Moneyball movie got made, but in this case it may really be the only way for Ottawa to make something meaningful happen without selling the farm.

In order to find players who might fit this criteria, I went on war-on-ice.com and sorted players with more than 300 minutes played this season by their relative Corsi% (Relative Corsi % is a player’s on-ice Corsi % subtracted from their team’s Corsi %. It is a measure of how much better a player’s possession numbers are than the rest of the player’s team.) and looked for players whose time-on-ice per game indicated that they are currently being used in a 3rd pairing role.

For your consideration:

Eric Gelinas

Do you like Patrick Wiercioch? Well allow me to introduce you to New Jersey’s Patrick Wiercioch! Despite his apparently excellent possession numbers, Gelinas has seen his ice time reduced every season since his rookie season and has found himself a healthy scratch of late. (Is his being a healthy scratch related to his 96.6% PDO? I’ll let you decide!) A former 2nd round draft pick, the 6-4, 210 pound Gelinas does not lack for physical tools, but is considered weak in his own end and HOLY SHIT THIS GUY IS LITERALLY PATRICK WIERCIOCH. Just when you think it couldn’t get any more lit, you find out that Gelinas is from Vanier and oh my god I need to take a moment to fan myself.

Ok, I’ve  actually changed my mind on this one. Let’s put a pin in this and decide what to do with Actual Patrick Wiercioch before trying to acquire Another Patrick Wiercioch.

Jakub Kindl

Ottawa may not even have to make a trade to acquire Kindl as his name is already being used in the same sentence as “waivers” on some corners of the internet. Kindl’s possession numbers have been consistently good for the past several seasons, but he has found his GF% tank this season. Is this related to his 98.8% PDO? I’ll let you decide!

Kindl is owed $2.5MM this year and $3.0MM next year, so his contract likely could not be absorbed by the Senators without there being some sort of money-in-money-out trade. If only there were some obvious candidate for such a thing…

Brandon Davidson

The problem with Brandon Davidson is that it might be too late to get him for cheap; Edmonton may already know he’s good. Davidson’s been getting more 1st and 2nd pairing time than 3rd pairing time of late which makes sense as finding a good defenseman on the Oilers is a discovery analogous to finding water on Mars. That said, it’s not like we don’t know that Peter Chiarelli is prone to dumb trades. My proposal? Yakupov and Davidson for Cody Ceci. Call me, Peter!

The Wisdom

The good thing about these players is that they are young and on cheap contracts (a thing Ottawa likes). In addition, Davidson and Gelinas will be RFAs at the conclusion of their contracts. Positives abound.

I would never advocate making a trade merely because The Corsis said so, but if Ottawa was going to scout some players to try to find some value, these guys would be where I’d start.

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