Five Thoughts: Goalies, Penalties, and Moving Downtown

In this edition of Five Thoughts, we ask what price the Sens would be willing to pay to upgrade their goaltending, whether a Chychrun trade is inevitable, and more!

Five Thoughts: Goalies, Penalties, and Moving Downtown
Photo by Markus Spiske / Unsplash

The Price of Good Goaltending

While there were a myriad of factors that conspired to keep the Ottawa Senators out of the postseason this year, the number one cause, with a bullet, was their goaltending. If the Sens had received even middle-of-the-pack play from their goalies, there's a strong case to be made that they would have been scrapping for a play-off birth until the very end. But as they say: "If ifs and buts were candy and nuts."

In his latest missive, Bruce Garrioch reports that the Sens apparently called the Boston Bruins about Linus Ullmark at the trade deadline – but were rebuffed. By Garrioch's estimation, Ottawa will likely try to take another run at the Boston goalie this off-season. That makes sense given the state of Ottawa's goalie play last year, but Garrioch's discussion of the potential price they might have to pay to acquire Ullmark left me scratching my head:

There is talk the Senators offered Korpisalo to the Bruins as part of a package for Ullmark at the deadline and Sweeney politely declined. Boston can’t afford to take on the $16 million in salary and the four years remaining on Korpisalo’s contract.
A league executive said Thursday he believes the Senators would likely have to offer defenceman Jakob Chychrun along with a first-round pick and another selection to acquire Ullmark. Even then, he has the hammer because he does have the modified no-trade clause.

The second part about the price the Sens would have to pay in order to acquire Ullmark (Jakob Chychrun, a first round pick, and another pick) only makes sense if they are also trying to off-load Joonas Korpisalo as part of the contract. Otherwise, that price tag simply does not track and the Sens should run, not walk, away from it. The question of what to do with Korpisalo is fodder for another day, but, as the summer rolls along, we can certainly expect to hear more rumours about the Sens expending capital to fix their biggest area of need.

Trading Chychrun

On the topic of trading Chychrun, if we're reading the tea leaves a bit, or, heck, just listening to Chychrun's exit interview, it does seem like something of a foregone conclusion that the Sens are going to be trading the rearguard just a little over a year after they acquired him. Chychrun's time with the team hasn't exactly gone as planned, and I said as much in my write-up of his season.

Still, I'm not sure that Ottawa should be in the business of trading him just for the sake of it. Chychrun was healthy last year, something that's been a real struggle for him in the past, and his numbers look much better away from Jacob Bernard-Docker. Besides, moving on from Chychrun now would require that they acquire someone who be an obvious upgrade in exchange. For all of his foibles, Chychrun is a capable NHLer, and the Sens' defensive group did not exactly prove its mettle this year. It's not hard to imagine Chychrun having a fantastic bounce-back season with the right partner. Before gets itself pot committed to trading him, it might be worth kicking some tires on whether other, less drastic options are available to upgrade the blue line.

Reconfiguring the Defense

Another thing that seems to be gathering steam as a consensus opinion in Sens-world these days is that Ottawa needs to remake their blueline to be bigger and "tougher to play against". While I'm not necessarily opposed to increasing the average size of Ottawa's defenders, getting bigger for the sake of it is a good way to accidentally make your defense worse. Without wading too far into age-old battles about roster construction, I'd just say that size is not, by itself, a positive attribute. Being bigger confers some obvious benefits: (potentially) increased strength, reach, physicality. There are also drawbacks: a higher center of gravity means (potentially) decreased puck handling, edgework. Like so much of player evaluation, there are trade-offs everywhere. The measure of whether a player is impactful or not is more complicated than just adding up physical attributes. The Sens don't necessarily need to get bigger, they need to get better defensively. Maybe they will also get bigger in the process, but the first is not a pre-requisite for the second.

Play-off Penalties

The fact that Connor McDavid came awfully close to getting away with pitchforking Matt Duchene in the face at the start of overtime in last night's game between the Edmonton Oilers and Dallas Stars brought back a lot of bad feelings for me on the topic of NHL officiating. It's long been an objective of play-off refereeing to "not decide the outcome of a game." I put that last bit in quotes because refusing to call blatant infractions is deciding the outcome of a game just as much as calling the penalty would have been. Ultimately the Stars didn't end up scoring on the double-minor, but letting the infraction go uncalled (as the refs appeared set to do before the NHL review) would have been a travesty. Duchene was injured on the play! What if the Oilers had scored as a result of getting a 5-on-4 while Duchene crawled to the bench? Would that not have been deciding the outcome of the game?

Ultimately McDavid came back to score the winner in double overtime anyhow. Calling him for that penalty in the first OT wasn't so bad, was it?

Moving Downtown

Lastly, this one is less of a complete thought since we are working with somewhat incomplete information, but in reading through this typically excellent piece from Ian Mendes yesterday on the topic of the Sens getting a downtown arena, it sure seems to me like Michael Andlauer is readying himself to make a pitch for a whole tonne of public money to help fund the venture. For whatever else can be said about Andlauer, he is a shrewd businessman who (mostly) considers his public utterances carefully. This section feels revealing to me:

Andlauer readily concedes, “It’s not something a private person can afford to do. Trust me, if I could, I would.”
He points to the financing model used to construct both arenas in Alberta, where the Oilers had Rogers Place open in 2016 and the Flames have designs on a new arena in the heart of downtown Calgary.
“There is a public-private initiative that’s worked out well in Calgary and Edmonton,” said Andlauer. “Edmonton is a great story. It’s not burdening the taxpayers.”

Andlauer is careful to focus on Edmonton here (which I'm not even sure is that great a of story) because Calgary's agreement looks like this:

The project will cost $926.4 million. The arena accounts for the bulk of that, at $800 million, while the community rink will cost $52.8 million, the parkade will cost $35.4 million, the outdoor community event plaza $28.7 million and the indoor plaza $9.5 million.
The city is taking on 56 per cent of the costs, or $515 million. Its contribution will be funded by transfers from the city’s Major Capital Projects Reserve, the Fiscal Stability Reserve and the Budget Savings Account Merged Reserve.

$515 million dollars could be doing a lot of things in Calgary. If Andlauer sees Calgary as a good example of what's possible from a funding perspective, all I'd say is we'd all better settle ourselves in because we could be headed for one heck of a fight between the Sens and the city.

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