Hi guys! Yesterday's news that Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane signed identical ten-year, $84 million deals instantly put me in armchair GM mode. Large money, long term deals were to be expected for two players key to a franchise winning two Stanley Cups in the past five years. However, the fact that Chicago is already $2 million over the salary cap with Toews and Kane at their current salary levels, and has to make room for their new salaries moving forward, made me salivate at the prospect of getting some Chicago players, perhaps even at a bargain price.
My last "GM" based post was about how I wanted Jason Spezza to be traded to the St. Louis Blues for Kevin Shattenkirk. I've been hoping that Ottawa would address the glaring need for a top four defenseman for quite some time now, and I know many on this site feel the same way. Unfortunately, this trade obviously didn't happen, as Spezza was instead sent to Dallas for a bunch of prospects and a pick- a trade I am currently less than enthralled at. However, I believe there is an opportunity to address our needs on the blueline and add some cup winning experience while we're at it, now that Chicago is feeling the pressure of getting under the cap.
As Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook form one of the top defensive pairings in the entire NHL, emphasized by Keith winning the Norris trophy this year, it's highly unlikely either of these players are going anywhere. However, after the top pairing, there is a good chance that Chicago may be open to suggestions if the price is right. The player I think we should go after? Niklas Hjalmarsson.
Paul MacLean has shown over the past few seasons that he prefers a left shooting defenseman playing the left side and a right shooting defenseman playing the right side. Previously, part of the reason I wanted Shattenkirk was because he was a right handed shooter, which meant he could play with either Patrick Wiercioch or Jared Cowen, who are left handed shooters, to balance the second pairing and give them a cushion to learn their position. However, as Hjalmarsson is a left handed shooter, this means that one of these two players would likely have to be moved to make room for Hjalmarsson.
Since Chicago is still a cup contender, it is unlikely they would trade a top defenseman away without getting a competent, cheaper defenseman or top defensive prospect in return. Of the two young defensemen mentioned, based on stats and the "eye test" I would prefer Cowen rather than Wiercioch be moved in a trade. However, as Cowen makes $1M more than Wiercioch in salary, this makes it harder to trade Cowen with Chicago, as every penny counts. This makes me believe that offering Wiercioch and a pick or prospect for Hjalmarsson would be our best offer to try and secure him.
Hjalmarsson currently makes $4.1M a season, while Wiercioch makes $2M. This immediately clears $2.1M in cap space for Chicago, while acquiring a promising young defenseman and possibly an attractive "pot sweetener." Chicago would then only be around 116k over the salary cap, which is much more manageable. Meanwhile, the Sens would get a player who could play on either the first or second defensive pairing, depending on how MacLean wants to use him.
Given our current roster, I would love to see Hjalmarsson paired with Karlsson on the first pairing- it would be pretty Swede (groan, I know, I know)! Marc Methot could then move down to the second pairing, and play with with Eric Gryba or Codi Ceci, either of which would likely be a decent pairing. Following up would be whoever is not with Methot with either Cowen or Phillips (whichever of the two plays better, while the other sits in the press box). This situation would make me much more comfortable than rolling with the same pairings that did not fare so well last year. The third pairing would still be a bit of a question mark, depending on whether or not Ceci has a sophomore slump and whether or not Phillips and Cowen continue to regress as they did last year, but at least the first two pairings would likely be solid!
If Chicago was looking to clear even more cap space, then I'd be happy to go after their forwards as well- in particular, Patrick Sharp. At $5.9M per year for Chicago's leading scorer last year, considering how salaries are trending, he would be a bargain. Ottawa has some promising young forwards and prospects to offer, so although this might be a bit more difficult to sell, offering some combination of Colin Greening, Zach Smith, Mark Stone, Alex Chiasson, prospects and/or picks might get their attention. Personally, as I have no emotional attachment to the newly acquired Chiasson, offering Chiasson along with a prospect like Shane Prince or high (2nd round?) draft pick, possibly with an additional lower round pick, would do it for me, as I feel Sharp could significantly enhance the production of whichever centre he plays with, whether it's Mika Zibanejad or the recently signed David Legwand.
These trades, sadly, are probably doubtful given that Eugene Melnyk is not likley to spend much more than has already been spent this year. However, this is what I'd be trying to do in Bryan Murray's position. Also, as Methot, Clarke MacArthur, and Bobby Ryan all need to be re-signed (and I will be very unhappy if all three do not re-sign), if the roster value needed to be reduced on behalf of Melnyk's internal budget after these trades, I'd simply trade Milan Michalek to whoever would take him. This is actually why I was very surprised he was recently signed to a 3 year contract, considering all three players are more important than him moving forward and in need of new deals. But he's here for now. If he was moved, hopefully one of our kids from Binghamton could fill in temporarlily before Curtis Lazar is ready to make the jump to the big leagues. Given our current roster, I'm assuming Lazar is going to play junior hockey all of this upcoming year and wouldn't be able to be recalled, but next year would make the team out of camp after dominating his opposition (for a second year in a row).
As Edmonton is in need of size, trading Colin Greening to the Oilers if Chicago does not have the cap space for him could be an option to free up cap space as well. If this wasn't enough, trading long time Senators Chris Neil and Chris Phillips could also be considered.
Lastly, as I believe Robin Lehner's time as Ottawa's starting goaltender is near, trading Craig Anderson midway through the season or at the trade deadline could also be done to make room, with a veteran presence signed as insurance (Sheer Craziness echoed my sentiments in this post previously: http://www.silversevensens.com/2014/6/5/5771380/senators-goaltending-the-future-is-now ). Right now, I'm assuming Lehner will sign a 2 or 3 year bridge contract for between $2-2.5M before the start of the season, and then if he does not regress, be due for a big pay raise as soon as it is completed. I didn't think too hard about backups, so I just thought of adding Peter Budaj to the roster, who I know is available.
In summary, I'm hoping Ottawa offers something like Wiercioch, Chiasson, Prince, and a 2nd round pick for Hjalmarsson and Sharp. If this was not enough, offering a second pick, preferably whatever the lowest round they'd accept in the 2016 draft is, would hopefully float Chicago's boat. Assuming this happens and Colin Greening and Craig Anderson are also moved, here's a Capgeek look at what that team could look like: one team with Michalek, and one without Michalek, as this would bring the roster value down to approximately $53M, which is just above the cap floor. The first could be this year's roster, and the second next year's roster (unfortunately Capgeek does not let you adjust current salaries, or I'd have increased some other salaries as expected):
Note: Shout out to The Backhander for showing me Capgeek's armchair GM feature, it's a ton of fun to play around with!
To keep things simple, just assume that any current players not on these rosters were traded for prospects and picks to help in the future (including Mark Borowiecki, whose one-way contract I feel will lead to his departure in the near future). Even with Michalek signed, the Sens would have a ton of cap room, around $12M, to re-sign or add players, and if we also ended up holding on to Anderson, we'd still be under $59M.
These rosters would immediately flip my current pessimistic mood about the team to one of optimism again, as we'd still have youngsters like Lazar, Puempel, Pageau, Englund and Claesson in the pipelines along with new assets, and we'd have cup winning experience to support our youth. I would argue these are lineups without a 3rd line, but with two 2nd lines, 2A and 2B, which could have pieces moved around depending on chemistry. Also, just a note that although Sharp is currently a left wing and Condra is currently a right wing, I feel they would probably adjust to the opposite wings pretty quickly (Sharp in particular, as he is a right handed shot).
Now, all of this being said, I may just be completely dreaming, as both Hjalmarsson and Sharp have no-trade clauses. They may simply say "nah, I'm not going to Ottawa." However, hopefully we could sell Hjalmarsson on coming to play with Karlsson, and this could in turn convince Sharp to follow along with him.
Either way, right now my fingers are crossed that Murray is not done making moves yet, although I was happy with the signing of Legwand. We'll see. On a closing note, best of luck to Murray moving forward with his health, I know we're all behind him in that sense regardless of the Sens' roster!
Until next time, cheers!