Email Hot Stove is the first post in a new column, featuring round table discussion between Silver Seven staff members.
Q: If you could make one change with the exception of ownership (I'm looking at you Adnan) this offseason, what would it be?
Brad: Bring in a top 3 D, hands down. Someone who could pair with Karlsson, or anchor the 2nd pairing as need be.
Amelia: Ok, who would you get? How would you do it (trade, free agency)? And which existing player gets bumped down?
Adnan: Why are you picking on me Amelia? :(
Amelia: I'm not! I still left you with "fire the coach" and "trade Spezza"
Adnan: Yeah I would trade Spezza if I could do only one thing.
Amelia: Who are you trading him to and who are you getting back?
Adnan: Leafs for Kadri and Gardiner
Amelia: I hear they were the problem this season and caused Toronto's collapse.
Adnan: True but I hear MacLean is really exceptional with young players and can turn them around.
Brad: The first part of that is really the tough question. Practically speaking, it would probably have to be a trade. Any of the free agents that fit the bill will sign for more than the Sens can afford thanks to the damnable internal cap. I'll see if I can come up with any suggestions.
Amelia: If I could only make one change this offseason, I want a defenseman and I think it's going to have to be through trade. Obviously, Spezza is our big ticket item and maybe there's a fit between the Sens and St. Louis. I would like Kevin Shattenkirk to be part of the package back. He's got good possession numbers and I'd love to see him paired with Karlsson (though they both shoot the same way, so probably not under MacLean) but he could anchor that second pairing and dramatically upgrade our blueline.
However, I can see the Sens making a smaller move (like when Foligno was traded for Methot). It would make sense for Murray to trade with teams that will need a bit of an overhaul. Trying to nab Justin Braun or Jason Demers might work.
I think with the team's budget it's going to be too hard to acquire good players through free agency. If this was a few years ago, I could see Murray trying to sign Ottawa native Dan Boyle, a sort of Gonchar-like acquisition.
As for the odd man out, I'd like to see Phillips in the press box more often than not and Borowiecki dropped. For me, the choice is between Phillips and Cowen and I'd rather play the younger player. If Phillips's minutes could be limited to 12-14 a game than it might be fine, but why dress a player who is going to be that limiting? I suspect Gryba is likely the odd man out (traded or whatever) but I think Gryba is better and more experienced than the fringe NHLer Borowiecki.
Ary: #AllHailAmelia (I agree on all points)
Peter: The biggest change this team needs to make remains the same as it was at this time last year: They desperately need a top-pairing defenceman to play with Erik Karlsson. While Karlsson's fully capable of dragging along a vastly inferior linemate such as Marc Methot or, even worse, Jared Cowen, he'd be better with a better defenceman--obviously. The Senators' blue line is out of balance, and it's far too heavy on bottom-end defenders with just one true top-pairing guy.
There are plenty of names out there. Although Dan Boyle plays the right side, he might be a good free agent acquisition since it's probable that the Sharks won't be bringing him back--I think he'd do wonders for Cody Ceci's development, and would probably help Patrick Wiercioch out significantly. If St. Louis is planning on making big changes this off-season after another disappointing playoff performance, maybe Jay Bouwmeester is available; his new contract gets started next season at $5.4M per year, which would work under Ottawa's internal budget and salary structure, and Bouwmeester's superior passing and skating abilities would complement Karlsson wonderfully. I've mentioned Christian Ehrhoff in the past, and I think his contract and capabilities are perfect for Ottawa, but that trade might be a tough one to swing--it depends on whether Tim Murray wants to gouge his uncle or not. And if Ottawa wants to go nuts, they could try signing P.K. Subban to an offer sheet; it'd be insane to do and isn't possible under the internal budget, but it would certainly amplify the current rivalry.
There are plenty of other concerns with the Senators right now, but all of them are secondary to the desperate need for a more balanced and competent defence corps. Once that problem is rectified, we can worry about the other decisions that need to be made.
Amelia: My problem with Bouwmeester is I think he's carried by Pietrangelo (his CF% drops a fair amount away from Pietrangelo). Yes, he could probably pair with Karlsson, but then it seems like we'll be paying a bigger price than we should for someone who is more like Methot but with better passing.
I would love to sign Subban to an offer sheet, but like you say Peter, it's never going to happen. It would be interesting to know if any other GMs approach him this offseason.
Brad: The cost to offer sheet Subban would be insane.
You'd have to offer more than Montreal would be willing to pay, which means you'll also be giving up at least a pair of 1sts, a 2nd and a 3rd. Maybe even four 1st round picks.
Amelia: Obviously we can't because we don't have a first. Although when Meszaros signed an offer sheet with Tampa, didn't they not have the appropriate picks so we ended up trading for Filip Kuba? I can't really remember, that was forever ago.
nkb: What IS P.K. Subban worth? I think it's a good question.
If the Sens had budget, I'd be willing to give up 2 1sts and pay him about 8mil per. Generational talents don't come cheap, and him plus EK would be 2014's version of Pronger and Niedermayer.
Brad: An 8m offer sheet would be 2 1sts a 2nd and a 3rd. It would also be matched by the Habs, I'm sure.
nkb: Man that's not THAT far from what I'd pay for PK.
nkb: Alright, so my thoughts on one thing I would want changed:
One thing I would want changed about the Senators going into next year is their goaltending rotation. Robin Lehner has long been considered the "goalie of the future" but I think it's now fully time for him to be the goalie of the present.
2013-14 was not really a banner year for either Sens goalie, but Lehner did finish slightly ahead with a .913 SV% across all situations, compared to .911 for Anderson. That being said, the main reason I think it's time to move on has more to do with how we can reasonably expect both to perform going forward; Anderson is entering his age 33 season, and goaltending performance tends to decline by that point. Meanwhile, there's good evidence that peak performance is much younger than traditionally believed, maybe as young as 24-2 ( http://nhlnumbers.com/2012/12/10/another-look-at-how-goalies-age-can-we-correct-for-bias). Lehner is entering his age 23 season, which might very well be his peak territory. It's time to give Lehner the heavier workload. Don't waste a year of what could be his prime.
Amelia: I just don't like Craig Anderson, I'm biased, so I'd love to go with Lehner as the starter this season, but I think that means you've got to trade Andy now. I just don't see him transitioning to the backup role in Ottawa.
Roger: I think Amelia is on the right track. I note that changing any one thing about last year's disaster seems an awful lot like proverbially "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic". The fact is we need to change a lot, from player usage to systemic problems getting into and out of zones, etc. If all of that stays the same, we're not a contender.
That being said, if you take Jared Cowen in his lengthy spell as Erik Karlsson's partner and replace him with a real top pairing defenceman, I think the Senators make the playoffs. Just the fact that you'd get 30 minutes a night of the best defenceman (player?) in the NHL without an anchor would make a huge difference. Figure in the fact that you get 30 minutes of improved defence, plus the trickledown effect of all the other defencemen playing easier matchups, and the team can't help but be better.
nkb: No small change will drastically alter this team's fortunes, but I was looking for something reasonably realistic that I think would have a positive impact this coming year and into the future.
I hear the "Andy won't take well to being a backup argument" but I just feel it's coming sooner than later and why waste another year for no reason other than to appease one man's ego? If Andy's really a good teammate he'll take it in stride. If he's not, I'm pretty confident he'll at least put forward a professional effort in the games he does start.
Roger: It feels a bit funny to imagine the team with a single change made in light of the near-certainty that we are going to lose our entire top line...
Matt: I'd keep Spezza. For a few reasons.
1. This team has enough young developing talent - we don't need more of that at the moment. But keeping a veteran PPG centre who consistently wins face-offs (and oh yeah - the current captain of the team) will help to create a stable base. Other pieces can move, but I don't think now is the time to move Spezza. He has a chip on his shoulder and he wants to win. Honestly, I'm not even that partial to Ryan. If you ship Spezza out, that's Chara, Alfie and Spezza all gone from this team in a matter of a few years. What vets are left? Neil? Phillips? It's an obvious choice. We all saw the Spezza we know and love the last 20 games of the season. He's due for an all-star year and with another off-season of back-rest under his belt, he should be rearing to go.
2. If Spezza goes, the hammer of criticism that he has so squarely taken on his shoulders for many years will fall directly on to Karlsson. You think Erik's loved now - but just you wait until Spezza is not around. Every mistake of EK65 that went under the radar the last year or two will be magnified massively. EK won't be happy and eventually, he'll leave the Sens (and basically go anywhere he wants in the NHL for any amount of money). I know Spezza is 30 now - but I think they need to sign him for another 3-4 years.
3. In the theory of moneyball hockey (which I personally prescribe to), you can have the best D core and goaltenders in the world, but you can't win games without goals. Sens had a lot of goals last year - but they also allowed a plethora of them. A little tightening of the D and G will go a long way, and if you're playing to score goals (which I think is the statement they made by making him the C), Spezza is the guy you want. Every time he is on the ice, something special can happen - whether that is an assist or a goal. He's fun to watch. In turn, he gives us a chance to win every time he is on the ice. If he's got another skill player on his line (i.e. Hemsky, Heatley, Michalek circa 2011), we know what he can do.
4. I don't think you'll get anything close to Spezza in return trade value. A veteran centre? Who wins faceoffs? And averages close to a PPG? What teams are going to part with a player like that? None. Turris is not ready or big enough or strong enough yet to be a first-line centre. He will get knocked all over the place by other first-lines (we've seen it before). In my opinion, in regards to Spezza, the Sens won't know what they've got til it's gone.
Roger: That's not a change! Cheat!
Adnan: Was getting bored with lack of Sens talk on twitter. Thank god for more Spezza stuff yesterday. :-)
Ary: "hope to get a deal done by the draft" - hope that it's a 2015 1st round pick and not a 2014, but I do trust Dorion and his crew if need be.
Side note: is Dorion keeping his lead scout title, or are we promoting/finding someone else?
Amelia: Bryan Murray will be disappointed no one's mentioned the need for a power forward.
Adnan: Believe the term is hard forward.
Amelia: Or forward who plays hard?
nkb: Yeah let's stick with the latter. A "hard forward" has some weird connotations...
Matt: Roger - it is a change because the Spezza trade is definitely happening
Adnan: In England if a soccer player (or a person in general) is considered a tough guy, they literally refer to that as a "hard man"
Mrs. O's Sens: I'd have to agree with Brad in bringing in a top 3D (I'd prefer top 2, but there may be slim pickings). The Sens biggest foible last year, IMO, was their defense. Clean that up, give Karlsson a partner - no, Cowen, no. I'd prefer a more defensive D than offensive, with some ability to move and skate with the puck.
And I have a list of D I'd like in OTT jerseys (in no particular order)
1. Boyle - UFA: oldie but a goodie. Short contract, might help mentor young guys for a couple of seasons, without any pointing
2. Nikitin - UFA: fairly cheap, fairly young. Big size. Might be a diamond in the rough.
3. Edler - Trade target: Swedish, GOOD PLAYER, becomes besties with EK65
4. Gudbranson - RFA to put offer on: young guy, maybe not a 3D yet...but I've always believed he will be. I just like him, OK