The Ottawa Senators made their second trade of the season, and first as playoff hunters, acquiring depth winger Tommy Wingels of the San Jose Sharks for Buddy Robinson, Zack Stortini, and a 7th-round pick. (In case you forgot, the Sens’ first trade was acquiring workhorse goalie Mike Condon for a 5th-round pick.) The Sharks retained 30% of Wingels’ salary in the deal.
Why did Ottawa make this deal? A lot of reasons, really. The biggest is that the Sens’ forward depth has been questioned all season. The team was waiting for Clarke MacArthur to return, but with news that he’d been shut down for the rest of the season, the team had to make a deal. The question is if acquiring a fourth-line energy winger is enough to shore up the Sens’ forward lines. The thing about acquiring him now is that Dorion and co. have a month until the trade deadline to decide if they need to do anything else.
As for the pieces the Sens gave up, they’re inconsequential. Stortini had been a semi-regular scratch in Binghamton. Robinson has 12 points in 33 games. A 7th-round pick has a very low chance of working out. The fact that the Sharks retained some salary is very palatable for the budget-conscious Sens. Basically they gave up the latest-possible pick and some guys who would never play in the NHL again for a guy who could be a fourth-line winger. At best, he ends up being a better than that and the team shores up its forward depth. At worst, he’s a UFA in the summer so the team cuts him loose after a couple months of disappointment.
What is important in all this is the Sens are giving up a pick for a pure rental. Dorion is quietly calling the Sens buyers heading into the playoffs. He’s not willing to mortgage the future (at least not yet), but he’s also not calling this a season of growth or seeing what they have. He’s going for the playoffs, and likely not done trading unless the team goes on a tear.
What’s also important for Sens fans is that it means an underperforming forward will come out. That likely means one of Chris Kelly, Chris Neil, or Curtis Lazar from the infamous fourth line will be scratched. It’s unlikely to be Lazar, since the team needs him to succeed for the team’s future (even if it’s just to up his trade value). Wingels had been playing fourth-line centre for San Jose, so it’s very possible Kelly comes out. However, Kelly has been the Sens’ forward with the most penalty-killing time (2:29 per game), whereas Wingels has seen 39 seconds per game with the Sharks. It’s also very possible the team rotates through those four players being healthy scratches for the next couple weeks to see how it goes.
All of this does beg the question: why does a contending team like the Sharks trade a cheap depth forward for next to nothing AND retain salary? It was all summed up pretty easily in a single tweet:
#Sharks save $731,500 in projected cap space with Wingels trade, which gives the team some breathing room to activate Tomas Hertl off LTIR.— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) January 24, 2017
If you’re the Sharks, you’re not so much losing Tommy Wingels as gaining Tomas Hertl. That’s a trade worth making.