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The Senators Don’t Need a Rebuild—They Need to Trim the Fat

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While the Senators are in a terrible position right now, they don’t need to do a full rebuild just yet. Instead, they need to rid themselves of the plethora of bad and expensive depth players

Columbus Blue Jackets v Ottawa Senators Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images

Whatever you can come up with to describe the 2017-18 Senators season, it’s already been said.

I don’t need to bore you with the details of what this season has been like. The entire organization looks like an absolute mess right now, which is incredible considering they were one goal away from the Stanley Cup Finals seven months ago. Now though, the playoffs are out of the picture, and we’re left wondering what the team should do moving forward.

Should they completely blow it up and rebuild? Should they stay the course and make a few more additions? Neither. On the ice, they don’t need a complete rebuild, all they need to do is trim the fat from the roster and bring in a few actually good depth players. That might not bring them a cup, but it would go a long way to improving the team.

The problem with Ottawa is that there are far too many bad players on the team right now, and they account for more money on the books than they can handle. And unsurprisingly, we’re already left wondering if there will be enough room for Erik Karlsson because of this poor budgeting.

There are eight (yes eight) players who I think could be moved off the team and it wouldn’t even make the team much worse, if at all. Those players are Nate Thompson, Gabriel Dumont, Tom Pyatt, Alex Burrows, Ben Harpur, Johnny Oduya, Cody Ceci, and Mike Condon.

  • Thompson is getting crushed to the tune of a -5.66 CF% relative. 11 points isn’t going to compensate for being that bad possession-wise.
  • Dumont has a paltry one goal and one assist in 20 games, with a career nine points in 84 games. The only reason he’s here is because of Guy Boucher.
  • Pyatt has a horrendous xGF% of 36.99%. Yet he gets favouritism from Boucher as well.
  • Burrows has 7 points in 45 games, which is tied with Chris DiDomenico who has played just 15 games. He isn’t even good enough to be in the lineup, yet he’s under contract for another year at $2.5M.
  • Harpur is last amongst Senators defensemen by a mile in xGF% at 37.86%.
  • Oduya is way past his prime at this point, and he has been taking away ice-time from Fredrik Claesson and Thomas Chabot all season.
  • Ceci has not developed into a quality top-four defenseman, and he simply isn’t going to. Out of 225 ranked defensemen, he sits 18th last in relative corsi at -6.61. And it’s been like that every year.
  • Condon has an .896 SV% and has regressed back to what he was in Montreal. I’m not sure if he’s quite this bad, but his cap hit of $2.4M for two more years is cringeworthy.

It’s hard to have a bottom of a lineup that has been this bad, but here we are.

While the aforementioned eight are the biggest drags on the team, four other players including Dion Phaneuf, Bobby Ryan, Zack Smith, and Craig Anderson are taking up a massive portion of the teams cap hit. They are all at least passable to an extent (with Anderson being incredible up until this season), but $21.7M is too much for four players who haven’t been anywhere near star-level this year.

All-in-all, Ottawa is paying these 12 players $34.45M (just under half the team’s payroll) for this season, and Ceci and Oduya are the only ones who have an expiring contract. That’s $34.45M for a group of players who have been a net negative to the team in 2017-18.

Even with that in mind though, I can see a best case scenario where the team saves a ton of money.

Thompson can probably be moved to a team looking for a veteran 4th line centre. Dumont can be waived and placed in Belleville. Pyatt might have a taker somewhere for a late round pick considering he’s only making $1.1M next year. Burrows might be hard to move with his salary, although there could be a sucker that hypes up his “intangibles” like Ottawa did.

Harpur should stay in the AHL and be the 7th/8th defenseman. Oduya can surely be moved to a team like Washington or Winnipeg who could “shore-up” their defense. Ceci can be moved for a number of players, including some good young forwards out there. Condon and Anderson may be hard to move, but they almost have to try to dump one of them somewhere.

Ryan most likely has to stay considering how terrible his contract is, but buying out Phaneuf should be an option:

CapFriendly.com

Teams will definitely call on Smith, as he is a prototypical trade deadline depth acquisition. So to sum it up, it’s possible to move almost all of these players. The only ones who would be really hard to find a trade partner for are Ryan, Phaneuf, and Anderson.

I truly do think Ottawa has the makings of a solid team, but they have to rid themselves a bunch of these players who are simply a drag on everyone else. Plus if they want to afford Karlsson, they need to save money somewhere. And no, don’t say Mike Hoffman.

If the Senators want to do a complete rebuild one day and trade anyone of value over the age of 25, then I’d be prepared for that, as sad as it would initially be. But next year is the worst year to begin that, as it’s looking like Ottawa will have to give their first round pick to Colorado in 2019.

I’m not sure that they will be able to become cup contenders in the next year or two, but there’s no reason not to go for it next season considering who they still have on the roster. Get rid of the dead weight and save a bunch of money in the process, re-sign Karlsson and Mark Stone, give the young guys a bigger role, add some cheap quality surrounding players, and then see what happens.

A core of Erik Karlsson, Thomas Chabot, Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman, Matt Duchene, Derick Brassard, and a top-5 pick in 2018 is something to work with. But it’s up to Pierre Dorion (or whoever the GM is) to get rid of players with negative value and replace them with talented players. Adding the right players is definitely harder than getting rid of the wrong ones, but there’s no excuse for keeping most of this same roster.

Once he trims the fat, not everything about the team is bad.