Roundtable of Death: We Just Traded Our Worst Contracts to the Leafs Edition

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Luke: People are out here like “WTYKY must speak on this”.

James: ____________________________!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Steph: I am so begrudgingly happy right now.

Andrew: I think it’s a deal that works well for both sides. Toronto will just buyout the players they don’t want (hint: all the guys being described by Bob McKenzie as NHL calibre) and get Lindberg and a 2nd rounder because I hear they want to have the most picks in the draft (that’s real winning) and GMBM got to trade another second rounder. But really Dion isn’t great, makes too much for too long, (the opposite of my financial situation btw), but instantly improves the blueline.

You all wanted an upgrade on D (yeah, you heard me) and this is what it looks like.

It’s also a way for the Sens to get out of nearly $10M in bad deals next season and for the rest of this season, so that mitigates the cost of Dion right now. The Sens love the deferred dollars in PW and Cowen’s deals, and this is a sort of creative interpretation of that.

Whatever, now we get a few months of hoping, beyond all odds, that Cowen will re-sign in Toronto. #DareToDream.

I don’t mind this trade. Defense was a need. We weren’t going to buy out those deals, they were just going to soak up more dollars next year. It will hurt later, but whatever. Sens are better because Cowen can never get back into the lineup.

Varada: “You all wanted an upgrade on D and this is what it looks like” is seriously perfect analysis. This is what it takes to trade for a defenseman who will actually play in this league.

Sens take on $22M in future salary for a bunch of players who currently aren’t contributing anything.

You know what would be an interesting point to look at: does the sens making deals that put a big financial burden on some future version of the team mean that Melnyk is selling?

Steph: Jared Cowen isn’t a Senator anymore. Sure, okay, we got another mediocre defenseman who misguidedly fights frequently and is overpaid but…your EB-Games-employee lookin ass ex-man Jared Cowen is GONE. This deal is not a thing I’m ever going to toast to, but it’s probably not going to be the cause of my drinking either. Contract wins and losses are being talked to death right now but we won’t know who “won” this deal for a long while (hint: Sens won, they’re winning the Cup, fuck the police).

Here’s what I know about the rest of the players we’re getting from extensive research in the last 5 minutes:

One time Matt Frattin autographed this kid’s face:

IMG_9630A6DFF7B3-114A-4F6D-8C58-BD69159806DA

Ryan Rupert is a twin and twins are the work of the devil. Casey Bailey is from Alaska and Alaska is the work of the devil. Cody Donaghey’s Twitter is the reason I had to look up what GOAT means.

Andrew: Steph, I love you. I am on board. Face autographs for all. EB-Games employees rejoice.

Chet: The Sens trading for the Maple Leafs’ captain reminds me of a Vulcan proverb: “Only Nixon could go to China.” But yes, this is what trading for a Top Four Defensiveman looks like. This is also Bryan Murray throwing Wideman and Wiercioch in a locked room with a shrimp fork and telling them that only one gets to come out, because you know Borowiecki is dug in like a tick on that third pairing.

And Clarke MacArthur helped convince Murray that Phaneuf was a good egg, right? But he still has a concussion? Vivid.

What I like about this trade is the number of different ways TSN 1200 listeners will be able to roast Phaneuf (which is Albertan French for “The Nine”) after some 6-5 loss to the Islanders:

a) That GUY Phaneuf used ta be the CAPTAIN in TORONNA. He was KING of the BUMS.
b) Phaneuf? Even TORONNA was smart enough to trade that BUM.
c) Bet that BUM Phaneuf is playin’ so bad ’cause he’s ticked off that he can’t find the fancy hair gel in Ottawa like he used ta buy in TORONNA.

I’ll hang up and listen. Although in the interests of hearing both sides (you gotta), any time you can improve your D by trading for the #1 guy from a team you just pasted 6-1, you gotta do it, even if it didn’t cost you $11M worth of guys, none of whom started for your team yesterday. At least the Leafs cleared enough cap room for Stamkos to use them as a stalking horse before signing somewhere else.

Andrew: Gotta say, the Stamkos Watch and subsequent disappointment is one of my favourite angles for this trade.

James: *Movie trailer narrator guy voice* “From the miiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiind that made you fall in love with Clarke MacArthurrrr…”

Chet: I remember James describing his powerful emotions upon hearing that the Sens had signed Clarke MacArthur less than an hour after Daniel Alfredsson left for Detroit – and I’m paraphrasing, because at the time two cops had him in a headlock – as “Hey Sens fans, don’t worry, we just signed a guy you HATE.” Except nobody ever really hated Clarke MacArthur, did they? Did anybody even have an opinion on Clarke MacArthur until he came to town as something other than a blue jersey? After that it only took him five minutes to convince Sens fans he’d been a misused third-liner in Toronto, making him exactly the kind of “We Told You So, You Stupid Leafs” player that Ottawa could get behind. Phaneuf is . . . not that. Until today, Phaneuf was the overpaid, overrated, underwhelming captain of an overrated, overexposed, underperforming rival – with one of the NHL’s top 5 punchable faces – and flipping the switch completely on THOSE powerful emotions will take some time. But the Sens are a better team tomorrow, 36-year-old Dion Phaneuf is still five years away, and by the time Bobby Ryan TORCHES Jared Cowen on March 12 at the CTC, Phaneuf will officially be a member of the family. “That’s my son!” you’ll find yourself shouting despite yourself, as some drunk land-plankton in a Sundin jersey finally gets to shout “Suck it, Phaneuf!” before vomiting Carling Black Label into his sister’s purse.

What else? Karlsson is gonna use Phaneuf’s contract to ask for 700 kajillion dollars in a few years. Fine. Worth it. Milan Michalek took a lot of BS from Sens fans, but his teammates loved him, he was good on the PK, he scored 30 goals one time, he wanted to be here, and he wasn’t Dany Heatley (Heatley’s ears just perked up at that mention as his Bugatti idles at some German drive-through window). Colin Greening is a good dude with an Ivy League diploma who took all the money the Sens were willing to give him, even if his final NHL fate is being turned into Diet Nathan Horton by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Jared Cowen? You never know; what struggling players HAVEN’T turned their game around under the laid-back eye of the Toronto media? Mike Babcock has an arm around his shoulder right now, telling him, “Son, we’re going to give you every opportunity to get your game together,” as Kyle Dubas waves a “BUYOUT=650K=STAMKOS?” placard in the background. Good luck in Switzerland, you big western omelette.

I will miss Milan Michalek, actually. Yes, Michalek, the guy the Senators kept, at the same price, over Ales Hemsky, who literally only tried for 20 games – kudos to you, Bryan Murray, for not getting fooled, because Hemsky totally got ME on that one – after the Sens, barely in sight of a playoff spot, picked him up on an all-in move that ultimately failed. Is this more of the same? Yeah, maybe. But is it SOMETHING? Yes. Bryan Murray will be gone soon, but make no mistake, he’s not done writing the story Senators fans will tell about him. And I give the guy credit for that, no matter how this works out. See you in a week when he trades Wiercioch for Jonathan Drouin.

Luke: As of this morning I had resigned myself to spending the rest of the season evaluating interesting pending UFAs (Mikkel Boedker looks quite zesty! Jason Demers could be a satisfying acquisition on a number of levels!) and generally staying away from Twitter on account of my philosophy of devoting energy to things I enjoy. Then Andrew sent me a G-chat that read simply “GO ON TWITTER. NOW. TRADE.” and I was right back in.

I’m feeling very confused emotionally about this whole thing. On the one hand, there’s the joy of knowing that Ottawa has sent two of their worst players to a team I HAAAAAATE, although this joy has been somewhat lessened by every Leafs fan insisting “No, actually we want bad players!”, much in the same way I would make fun of myself in high school to discourage bullies from trodding that same ground.

There’s also a slight despair at having given up Tobias Lindberg, a prospect I really like, to a team I HAAAAAATE.

There’s also sadness at losing Milan Michalek, a consummate professional who did nothing other than whatever the org asked him to do, right down to waiving his No Trade Clause as his last official act as an Ottawa Senator.

And then there’s the uncertainty associated with acquiring a player who has mostly been an overpaid disappointment, yet could still be useful to the team given the right situation. Like James, I’ve certainly delighted in Phaneuf’s high-profile failings in the past, but even as I’ve mercilessly roasted the guy, I’ve also privately admitted that I thought Phaneuf was a victim of his role and expectations more than anything. “Dion Phaneuf: not as bad as you think!”, I would preach to my hapless friends, like a pretentious food connoisseur explaining how the shit sandwich they’d been served was actually considered a delicacy in some countries. Well now the shit is on the other baguette, and I’ll be damned if I’m not going to fake a smile as I dig in.

James: I think we all know what Toronto’s plan is for Greening and Cowen. They are using that “New, veinier leaf logo” merch money to buy them out, something Bryan Murray has consistently said was not an option for the Senators. Baring injuries to better players, Greening and Cowen couldn’t even get into the lineup anymore. On a .500 team. That…is awful. I cannot stress this enough: Jared Cowen was going to get a fucking $800,000.00 dollar raise next year. Yes, almost a million dollars for playing EVEN WORSE this year. Another angle: He was going to make $400K less than Marc Methot next season. You know, the guy who’s done nothing but hold down the top pairing for years. What a mess. Though I have spent years defending him I have to respect the money ball of getting Michalek of the books. Blessed is the player that can play in the top or bottom 6 without complaint but the hard truth is Milo though his contribution to the team can be under-appreciated, he does spend quite a lot of time injured these days. We all know deep down that the Senators aren’t really the type of team that can pay a bottom 6 penalty killer, good as he is, 4 million bananas a year. Besides what does Michalek really do at this point that Pageau doesnt? It was time.

As I attempt to scrub my internal hard drive of years and years of roasts, I cannot really say with confidence I know what Phaneuf’s play is like on a game to game basis. I’m sorry I have shit to do besides watch a terrible team that i loathe in my spare time. BUT i feel pretty good that the chances of him regressing below a second pairing defenceman are farrrrrrrrrrrr less likely than Jared Cowen progressing into a bottom pairing defender. Besides we have Hoffmans to re-sign.

Also, those in their feelings about Tobias Lindberg. He might make the Leafs yeah…THE REBUILDING LEAFS. Are we really thinking that guy had a chance of getting someone in the current top 6 out the paint? Shit, Shane Prince has twice the pedigree and is toiling on the 4th line trying to set up Chris Neil for one timers. Thumbs up to improving the defence which absolutely had to be done in exchange for shedding dead cash, giving up a prospect who had little chance here, a DEEC player and a second round pick.

Bryan Murray once traded a FIRST round pick for Chris Campoli btw.

Varada: I think I’d summarize this trade by saying, yes, it’s a blockbuster, in that trades don’t really happen anymore and this involved a lot of people. However, at the end of the day, it’s an often-injured top 6 forward, some dead cash, and some lottery tickets for a pretty ok top 3 D, some dead cash, and some lottery tickets. It’s hard for me to get worked up about it. We added a body we need now, and a player whose salary descends over the next five years who will be tradeable as the cap keeps going up. I’m a fan of the trade.

And to those who are writing that this is a terrible deal and we should be launching a BONAFIDE REBUILD™ – you know who you are, because you interpret every single occurrence through this lens – all I can say is that what was said when Phaneuf was signed to that deal remains true today: if you want to add a defenseman who can play 18-22 minutes for you every night, then you’re not getting him on the UFA market for anything less than a ridiculous number, and you’re not trading for him without giving up an amazing prospect. So you give him the term, and figure out the rest years from now. Ottawa got a player who literally could not be got any other way, and I don’t know what to say to those who are wishing we had to sit through 3-5 years of massive losing seasons instead. I’m a little tired of everything Ottawa tries being met with “Yeah, but this doesn’t fix everything the way the team being an entirely different team might fix things.”

Luke: One thing is certain, and that is that The Universe has set a course towards one of two possible realities – one reality in which Bryan Murray is hailed as an all-time genius for having managed to ship off Ottawa’s contractual dead weight to free up money for Mike Hoffman’s pending contract extension while simultaneously shoring up the Sens’ porous blue line simply by giving up a veteran 3rd line forward and Ottawa’s 3rd best prospect, or another reality in which Bryan Murray is remembered as having rid himself of two of his greatest mistakes by doubling down on an even bigger mistake and is subsequently forever ridiculed as an executive whose final year was mostly in service of our bitter provincial rival. Which reality we end up in hinges on one thing: Dion Phaneuf not playing like a pile of wet paper bags on Ottawa’s second pairing for the next 3 to 5 years.

Early predictions are mixed to say the least, but I have watched a lot of bad defensemen play for the Ottawa Senators this year, and I can confidently state that Dion Phaneuf will be an upgrade on no less than three of them.

“Phaneuf only looked good because he’s been playing against 2nd-tier competition!”, yell the braying masses. Well that’s good because that’s who Ottawa’s brought him to play against. “Phaneuf was being CARRIED by Jake Gardiner!”, goes another common criticism, as if Ottawa doesn’t have a defenseman as good as Jake Gardiner. This might be my inherent optimism talking, but it seems to me that if Dion Phaneuf can play well in certain situations on a team that is objectively terrible (Sorry, Rich Clune), he should be able to play well in certain situations on a team that is objectively slightly better than terrible. I don’t expect greatness, but I do expect an upgrade over what was there before by way of steady competence, and the peace of mind that steady competence brings is something you can’t really put a price tag on.

Well, I guess you can put a price tag on it. $33 million over 5 years would be the amount on that price tag.

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