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 third article in the series, taking a closer look at Michalek.
When Milan Michalek was re-signed this past off season, the reaction was best described as mixed around these parts. 3 years at 4 million per for an aging winger with a history of recurring knee problems? But hey, that might be behind him and he could finally reach back to his performance levels from a few years ago!
Well, the injuries haven't come back, but neither has his performance. He's on pace for around 13 goals and 29 assists so far this season, which would be a career low and a far cry from his high in a Senators uniform of 35 goals and 60 points from the 11-12 season. This has led many to question if Michalek has a place on the roster of the Senators going forward.
One of the reasons to question his place on the team is his position. Left wing is a spot that the Senators have a fair bit of depth at. It doesn't look that way if you only look at the NHL roster - there are only three active right now, with Erik Condra acting as the fourth on his off wing, but there are eight of them in Binhamton right now. Some of them aren't really potential replacements - the freshly waived Colin Greening, for example. Others such as Shane Prince and Matt Puempel could be prime candidates to move up to the NHL well before the remaining years of Michalek's contract are done.
Speaking of the contract, Michalek has another two full seasons left on his at $4m each year. That's not really a terrible contract, but it could help or hurt any attempt to trade him. On one hand, because he wouldn't be a rental the price teams are willing to pay is generally higher. But with the cap situation still uncertain for next year, committing to an extra 4 million cap hit might make things a bit more unpalatable for the teams that might be looking to add at the deadline. It also raises the question of just how much hockey he has left in him. He is only 30, but has already shown some significant decline. It's tougher to get a team to take a chance on a player like that when they're locked in for two more seasons.
The biggest potential issue his contract could cause for potential trades is the all-too-common no trade clause. It is a limited no trade clause, but unfortunately the details of just how it is limited are elusive.
But hey, maybe if they can't (or won't) move Milan out for some assets for the future, it could still turn out to Ottawa's benefit. Brother Zbynek Michalek is one of the few D slated to be UFAs at the moment that could come and a price palatable to Ottawa. Getting to play with his brother might just act as a draw for the veteran defenceman.
Best case: Traded for a high pick (perhaps a second rounder) or decent prospect.
Expected scenario: No buyers at a price Murray is willing to accept.