The rebuild has begun in earnest.
On Thursday afternoon, the Ottawa Senators traded longtime centre and fan favourite Mike Fisher to the Nashville Predators in exchange for a 2011 first-round draft choice and a conditional 2012 draft choice. According to TSN, the conditional pick is detailed as follows: "The Senators will receive Nashville's third rounder if the Preds win one playoff round. That pick would then turn into a second-round pick in 2012 if the team wins two or more rounds."
This trade is likely to be a difficult one, at least initially, for Senators fans. Although much of the fanbase has said they'd support a rebuild through most of this season, that was just talk before; now, with one of the city's favourite players dealt away as part of the rebuild, the reality should be sinking in for most of the city. But as a seller's trade, it was a good one for the Senators.
As much as most Senators fans have always liked Fisher for his yeoman's work and commitment to the franchise and the community, he was and will always be limited in his effectiveness. He produced like a second-line centre last season, and despite a step backward this season, remains a good (admittedly not great) second liner. He'll most certainly help the Predators as they make their run for the playoffs, and given Smashville's love for players of his ilk, Fisher will likely endear himself to the city in short order.
What Ottawa gets isn't guaranteed, but a second first-round pick is a great return. If the Predators (who will have plenty of fans in Ottawa this post-season, hoping to improve that conditional pick) make waves in the playoffs, that return becomes all the better.
And although it's difficult to project the future, it seems unlikely that Fisher would have been part of the long-term future in Ottawa. While he's signed for another two years, those years will probably be tough ones for the Senators as they work on rebuilding the team. After them, Fisher becomes a free agent, and would perhaps have moved elsewhere at that point anyway. So rather than keep him for two years of service during rebuilding seasons, Fisher is moved now, when his value is likely its highest.
Finally, the Senators pick up some ever-valuable cap space, for this season and the next. Many potential trading partners are likely hamstrung by cap constraints, so for this year, the Senators are able to take on unwanted contracts if that's what they need to do to get deals done. And for next season, with the increase coming in the salary cap, Ottawa's got more than $20M to play with in the off-season. That will be some valuable space for next season's GM, whoever that happens to be, to work with.
Fisher's thoughts on the deal: