5 Thoughts for Friday
Trade deadline, Phaneuf fitting in, playoffs and more!
The trade deadline is fast approaching. No time to waste. Five! Thoughts! Now!
What to Do With Wiercioch
Oh, Patty. Poor Patty.
When the Senators signed Chris Wideman to a two-year extension a couple days ago, it kind of sealed Patrick Wiercioch's fate.
For one, the Senators now have their bottom pairing locked up for the next two years - regardless of how having Mark Borowiecki as a full-time NHLer makes many feel - and that, right away, makes Wiercioch the odd man out. The other reason is simply the bargain they got with Wideman's deal.
At $800 thousand in both 2017 and 2018, the former AHL best defenseman was locked up with a very cap-friendly contract. While Wiercioch is making $2 million, and it would take more than that to re-sign him, the Senators free up a lot of room by cutting ties with the 25-year-old.
The only thing left is to trade him.
Ottawa likely doesn't feel fine with keeping a player that will spend most his time in the pressbox - unfairly so - and will also earn over $2 million. Many seem to undervalue Wiercioch, but there's a strong belief that a lot of GM's are actually quite high on him.
The return could be more desirable than you think.
Phaneuf Fitting In
The Senators got what they wanted when they acquired Dion Phaneuf.
The former Toronto Maple Leafs captain (dear God, that felt weird) has six points in eight games and is filling a role that wasn't present when Cowen was in the lineup. Slowly decreasing speed aside, Phaneuf has improved the breakout and is more than capable at holding his own in the offensive zone.
We've already seen multiple goals created by the 30-year-old, corralling a puck rimmed around the boards only to fire a quick shot at the net a second later.
Imagine that. A defenseman that proves to be an asset to his team because he can get shots off quickly at the blue line instead of always dumping it back in the corner.
Crazy, I know.
Drouin or Nichushkin?
Not long ago, it was rumoured that Dallas Stars forward Valeri Nichushkin was on the trading block. Yesterday, it sounded even more imminent that he would be moved. With the Senators having tossed their hat into the Drouin pot, it's not out of the question that they would be interested in another promising 20-year-old.
But what if you could only pick one to go after?
Nichushkin is a big - and I mean big - power forward that hopped into a full-time NHL role his first year of eligibility. The 10th overall pick in the 2013 Draft, Nichushkin was limited to only eight games last season because of hip surgery, but he essentially is in his third year with the Stars.
The soon-to-be 21-year-old could become a 30-goal scorer rather quickly, and has already proved he can produce. Nichushkin recorded 34 points in 79 games during his rookie season, all while playing less than 15 minutes a game.
Jonathan Drouin may have played 70 fewer games and is looking like a possible locker room nuisance right now, but he does have the higher ceiling of the two. The former Halifax Moosehead is simply more talented and can be a promising presence in any team's top six right now.
It might come down to which player will cost more - and in the end, I think Drouin may be too rich for the Senators' blood - but either one would be a great immediate and long term addition in Ottawa.
It sure is tough having to replicate a Cinderella run just to squeak into eighth place and look up in the standings to find out you're playing the Washington Capitals in the first round.
Losing 5-3 to the Vancouver Canucks
this morning last night and snapping a four-game winning streak, it only gets harder here on out. The Senators are currently four points out of a playoff spot while the eighth seed Pittsburgh Penguins have three games in hand on them. It's not looking good. They'd likely have to go 15-4-1 to just get the final spot.
Receiving a regulation loss after being up 3-2 in the third period really takes the wind out of your sails. And then there's staying up until 1 a.m. to watch it. Now that is deflating.
If They Don't Make It
You've likely heard it quite a few times during this season of doom and gloom, but I'll repeat it one more time.
If the Senators miss the playoffs this season, they will have won only one playoff series in nine years.
When will people start demanding more from the organization as a whole? And this doesn't single anyone out in particular. Let's talk about the owner. Let's talk about the management. Let's talk about the coaching. Let's talk about the players.
I know, it sounds like an endless trail down Whiny Road, but to be fair, this team has been stuck in mediocrity for nearly a decade.
Every single year you don't put a team together that has the potential on paper to make a deep playoff run, you're wasting another 82-plus games of the greatest player your franchise will possibly ever have the privilege to employ. Erik Karlsson will win his third Norris Trophy at age 25 this season. And he'll do that a few more times before he's considered past his prime, you can almost bank on it.
But the objective isn't to collect as many individual awards as possible. And it shouldn't be to just get in the playoffs and see what happens.
The objective should be to be comfortable and jostling for playoff position in early March, not barely poking at the postseason surface, praying that the team has enough to break through and get swept in the first round.
Stop being satisfied with a tossup.
Regardless of what Ottawa would give away to get them, what player would you rather see in a Senators uniform?