Five Thoughts For Friday: Joseph, Stanley Cup Finals, and the PWHL Offseason

You will never catch me cheering for "Canada's team"

Five Thoughts For Friday: Joseph, Stanley Cup Finals, and the PWHL Offseason
Photo by Tim Trad / Unsplash

Why are we talking about trading Mathieu Joseph?

The Sens are over a month into the offseason, which means it’s time for everyone to focus on the few crumbs of information we get. Last week, it was a baseless rumour about Brady Tkachuk, and now the topic of the day is Mathieu Joseph, whom GM Steve Staios is allegedly shopping.

Why, exactly? Who knows? Ottawa’s depth isn’t quite as bad now as it has been in the past, but Joseph isn’t exactly expendable; he was one of their most reliable players last season. He’s a bit overpaid for what he contributes, so maybe they expect Norris back by the fall and need to dump salary to re-sign Pinto, which is the outcome that makes the most sense to me, but I still don’t understand why there would be such a rush to offload him when there are so many other things to address - notably, Hamonic's presence on the roster, Chychrun’s future, and the absolute tire fire in goal.

Uncertainty on defense

Speaking of Chychrun, I am very interested (and terrified) to see what happens with the defense this summer. A lot of people have written off Chychrun after his less-than-enthusiastic exit interview, and everyone seems to agree that something needs to change after next season. That might mean Chychrun being traded for a right shot defenseman, and it might also mean Brännström not being re-signed.

I’ll be honest and say that I’m not entirely convinced that the defense is as big of a problem as people seem to think it is. The Sens’ real problem this year was goaltending; if they can improve on that and get some good old regression to the mean in terms of puck luck, I think they can make the playoffs even without major changes on defense.

If they can get a high-end top-4 defenseman - like Weegar or Tanev, for instance - then yes, they should go for it, and they should consider Chychrun in the trade package, but making a trade just for the sake of having two right handed defensemen in the top 4 seems like a bad idea.

They do need to find a way to upgrade on Hamonic, though. Urgently.

Canada’s Team

A Canadian team has made it deep in the playoffs - this time all the way to the final - which means it’s once again time for the country to relitigate our nearly annual debate: should we all cheer for the last Canadian team standing?

You all know my answer to this question by now. My answer is “no.” The 2017 playoff run cemented this for me, when the Sens were “Canada’s team” and I realized I wanted the Sens to earn the distinction of being the Canadian team to break the curse.

We are not all in this together, trying to bring the Cup home. This is a competition and I want the Sens to win it.

However, for this competition to exist, people need to continue to make a big deal about the whole “Canada’s team” thing, so for those of you who do actually cheer for the last remaining Canadian team (I know there are plenty of you; I’ve lived in Nova Scotia), I say, please keep this up.

When I posted on Twitter about not being a “Canada’s team” kind of person, a lot of people responded that they could never cheer for a divisional rival, a take that confused me. In the era of 32 teams, when divisional rivals don’t even play each other that often, does being in the same division actually make a rivalry? Aside from the Tkachuk narrative, I don’t think there’s any bad blood between the Sens and Panthers, nor would the Panthers winning the cup change anything for the Sens.

What I do care about is teams leaving the “never won the cup” club. That would be so embarrassing.

So either Canada’s cup drought ends, or the group of teams that have never won the cup in their entire history grows smaller. A terrible outcome all around if you’re a hater. I for one will be so upset no matter who wins.

PWHL Free Agency Begins

It’s been a lot of fun following the PWHL in its inaugural season, especially as someone who pays a lot of attention to the NHL. The structure of the PWHL is a bit more NHL-like than previous women’s leagues were, and yet there are so many important differences - notably how the short contracts and the absence of a development league make the draft less meaningful.

Right now, we’re all exercising a bit of patience as we wait for Ottawa to announce their free agent signings. The exclusive negotiation window opened on June 1st, and so far the only signing that GM Mike Hirschfield has announced is Natalie Snodgrass - a useful forward, certainly, but not exactly one of the big names we’ve been waiting on. Given Daryl Watts’s comments about being open to negotiating with other teams, I’m sure we’d all like to see her signed as soon as possible.

With the league so new, it’s so hard to tell when any of these signings will happen, how likely last year’s team is to re-sign, or when we’ll find out about signings that do happen. Please, just give us Boyd, Shiga, Mrazova and Watts. I need them back.

The Draft (no, not that one)

The second ever PWHL entry draft will take place on Monday, and there’s a ton of talent available. Based on mock drafts by The Ice Garden and The Athletic, it sounds like there isn’t much question of who Ottawa will take at second overall. Sarah Fillier is far and away the best player available, so she’ll definitely go to New York. That leaves Ottawa with Danielle Serdachny, who scored the OT winner for Canada at this year’s women’s worlds. She’s a bigger player and a great net front presence. Given the GM’s recent comments about needing to get tougher, it feels like this is a perfect match. I can’t wait for her to officially join the team.

Interestingly, Hailey Salvian also has Ottawa drafting Dara Greig in round 4, with Mae Batherson going to Boston later in the draft. It would be very Ottawa of them to draft siblings of current Sens players.

Another storyline to watch is where Amanda Kessel ends up. The 32-year-old team USA veteran is obviously a well-known figure in women’s hockey, but she’s far from the best player available right now. I guess we’ll see how far her name recognition gets her.

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