Ottawa's future looks bright, there's no question. The problem is, this team also has a lot of players who don't fit with this forward-thinking model. You've got the Cup Run 2007TM leftovers of Chris Phillips and Chris Neil. Both have had long careers with this franchise, but both are quite ineffective in their roles today. There's Milan Michalek, who has two more years after this one at $4-million. There's David Legwand, who has been a healthy scratch after looking like a solid free agent acquisition in the summer. How many of you still remember that Zack Smith plays for this team, and will at some point return from injury and need a roster spot? This team has eight defencemen, and you have to think that at least one out of Mark Borowiecki, Eric Gryba, Patrick Wiercioch, or Jared Cowen will need to be off-loaded. This is the second article in the series, taking a closer look at Legwand.
When Sheer Craziness pitched a week long "Spare Parts" series, I jumped at the opportunity to discuss a classic Tunnel of Love track. When I realized it was actually an opportunity to discuss David Legwand, I was even more thrilled.
Legwand was signed as a free agent this past summer, after splitting last season between the Nashville Predators, the only team he had ever played for, and the Detroit Red Wings, his hometown club. Legwand's deal runs through 2016 and pays the veteran centre $3,000,000 each season.
Legwand had a relatively decent start to his Ottawa career under Paul MacLean. The former Ottawa coach leaned on the veteran a lot, giving him fairly tough zone starts and deployment. In fact, Legwand is starting just 37.4% of the time in the offensive zone. However, things have been different under new coach Dave Cameron. The biggest difference is ice time. Legwand saw significant power play and penalty kill time with MacLean as coach, averaging 16:18 TOI/G under MacLean in 27 games. His minutes have dropped by almost four minutes a game under Cameron though (12:21 TOI/G in 19 games). In fact, on five occasions Legwand has played less than 10 minutes in a game under Cameron. For comparison, his lowest TOI under MacLean was 12:59 and under Cameron it's 6:22.
Legwand was recently a healthy scratch for two straight games, an unfamiliar situation for the veteran centre. However, unlike Cameron's deployment of Chris Phillips, I don't think Legwand's decreased minutes and scratches are indicative of anything other than a) MacLean leaned a bit too heavily on the 34-year-old, and b) Cameron is moving away from veteran players like Phillips, Neil, and Legwand by cutting their playing time and favouring youngsters like Jean-Gabriel Pageau. Cameron seems to feel differently about Legwand than he does other veterans on the team, because when Legwand got back into the lineup on Saturday against Arizona, he played 17:03, the most time he's seen under Cameron, and rewarded his coach with two assists.
What should happen with David Legwand?
He should be moved. Legwand's got more hockey in him and won't be retiring until at least the end of his current deal. While he could easily play out his remaining contract with the Senators, it increasingly makes less sense for him to do this. Ottawa has a lot of depth down the middle (Turris, Zibanejad, Pageau, Lazar, and Zach Smith when he returns to full health) and I suspect the player would be willing to move if decreased ice time and healthy scratches continue. It's not that he can't still can do a decent job at the NHL level, but more that as the season goes on, it's apparent he's not a good fit in Ottawa.
What can the Senators expect in return for Legwand?
Sometimes it's hard to speculate potential returns for players at the trade deadline. Fortunately for us, Legwand was traded last year at the deadline and this should be our starting point.
Last season, after 15 years in Nashville, Legwand was traded to Detroit on March 5. Detroit was desperate for centres and Legwand fit the bill. The price was steep: a roster player (Patrick Eaves), a top prospect (Calle Jarnkrok), and a conditional pick (2nd round, 2014). The Senators would be thrilled to land such a haul this season.
Unfortunately, that's unlikely for a couple reasons. For starters, Detroit was depleted last season and desperate to make the playoffs and made a rash trade. Another reason is that Legwand was having a great offensive season. At the time of the trade, he had played 62 games with the Predators and had 10 goals, 30 assists, for 40 points, and was on the way to one of the best point totals of his career (he finished the season with 14 goals, 37 assists, and 51 points in 83 games).
Legwand is off that pace this season offensively, but has still contributed (7 goals, 14 assists, and 21 points in 46 games). He's also been one of Ottawa's more reliable contributors on the power play this season, with 5 goals (tied for first on the team), and 10 points (tied for second). Still, it's as a defensive specialist that Legwand made his reputation and he still pulls the tough assignments and significant defensive zone time while averaging about two minutes on the penalty kill (1:53 SH TOI/G). These qualities as well as his veteran status would make him a good fit for a playoff bound team/Cup contender looking for experienced bottom-six depth.
Best-case scenario: Legwand is traded for a high pick (perhaps a second rounder) or decent prospect.
Expected scenario: Bryan Murray respects Legwand and trades him to a contender for the best possible deal.