Don’t worry, we’ve almost made it. Just a few more weeks. Here’s this week’s five thoughts:
Could Paajarvi stay?
After scoring three goals in two games, there was a lot of talk on the interwebs about potentially re-signing Magnus Paajarvi for next season since he is a UFA in July. I find it funny because it’s a classic overreaction to a two-game sample where people realize that he may actually be good. Having said that, Paajarvi isn’t necessarily that bad of a player, as some like Micah McCurdy have pointed out:
Take a look at his three seasons before this one - tremendous shot impacts on D and O and scores like a 3/4th line tweener, draws penalties, all in unsheltered minutes. If you can get a guy like that for cheap you do it.— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) March 13, 2018
But while I’m sure he would come cheap on his next contract and he’d be fine on the fourth line, I think Ottawa needs to shoot higher than just “fine” in the bottom six. Tom Pyatt and Alex Burrows fit in that category (I’d even argue they’re much worse than fine), and if Max McCormick and Jim O’Brien are still here next year, they are certainly nothing more than fill-ins.
An important point to make here is that in a vacuum, I wouldn’t mind re-signing Paajarvi at all. If the Senators were able to get rid of Pyatt and Burrows and not have McCormick and O’Brien as regulars, then I’d have zero issue with him coming back. It’s unfortunate that things don’t work in a vacuum though. Isn’t there a point where you have too many “fine” players? Ottawa isn’t a team that has forwards who should be playing higher in the lineup, it’s usually the opposite.
Pierre Dorion has a second chance to re-make the bottom-six if he chooses to do so, but I’d rather he look for more skilled and offensive options, because a team with guys like Logan Brown and Filip Chlapik on the third line looks a lot better than a team with Tom Pyatt and Magnus Paajarvi.
Erik Karlsson catching up
Despite the fact that Karlsson missed the first five games of the season and almost everyone is calling this one of his worst seasons, he sits only four points back of John Klingberg for the most points by a defenseman this season.
It’s pretty remarkable how close he is considering even just a month ago people were saying that Karlsson is already slowing down and is on the decline. Since the first game after the trade deadline, he has three goals and nine assists in eight games. And going back to January 30th, he has four goals and 19 assists in 22 games.
I’d say that’s pretty damn good.
Yes, he’s had his defensive struggles this year, but he’s also been incredibly unlucky with the 27th worst PDO out of 531 skaters. Perhaps he’s still a generational talent and Ottawa shouldn’t trade him after all.
Summer= money saving season
In a recent Don Brennan article that I’m sure many of you have read, Bobby Ryan admitted something pretty scary:
The Senators veteran winger heard there had been a deal worked out that would send him and Erik Karlsson to a Western Conference hockey team. His time in Ottawa, he believed, was over after four and a half seasons.
“I heard on Sunday it was done and somebody backed out at the last second,” Ryan said Monday morning at BB&T Center. “Karl and I were like, ‘pack it up’. We thought we were gone. That’s just the way it goes. Then you’re like, I’ve got to move again?
“I guess I’ll just wait and see how it goes in the summer. That’s all you can do.”
We have no idea who backed out at the last minute, but that’s an extremely interesting tidbit. I’m hoping Dorion was the one who had a change of heart at the last minute by wanting a bit more, but we may never know.
The main takeaway from this though is that the Senators are going to try their damndest to get rid of Ryan, even if it means getting a worse return for Erik Karlsson. It would be a blasphemous to get a couple of picks and a prospect for Karlsson and Ryan simply because Ryan’s contract was getting too expensive.
Yet, we’re in a situation where that could happen in the summer. No fans would have an issue with moving Ryan, it just depends on how they do it. I really hope my previous thought in this article isn’t obsolete in a few months time...
Playing out of a top pick
With 13 games to go in the regular season, it’s looking more and more likely that Ottawa won’t be getting a top-3 pick in the draft. To be fair, even the worst team in the league has slightly under 50% odds to pick in the top 3, but Ottawa will have even lower odds. For a while, the Senators had been entrenched in the 3rd last position, but after Brock Boeser got injured, the Vancouver Canucks have been absolutely abysmal.
And at the same time, Ottawa’s been playing decently well since the trade deadline. Most of their games have been pretty entertaining, and their best players such as Karlsson, Matt Duchene, Mike Hoffman, Ryan Dzingel, and Mark Stone (when healthy) have been fantastic. Because of that, they’re now two points up on Vancouver with two games in hand, and just two points back of Detroit with a game in hand.
Montreal is within reach as well with a three point lead and two more games played, and Edmonton sits four up with one more game played. The point is, if Ottawa keeps playing well, they could very well end up as “high” as 7th last in the lottery standings. Don’t get me wrong, it is nice to see some life from this team, but at the same time, I really want the best odds possible for a top pick. Even finishing last doesn’t guarantee a team that top pick, but it at least guarantees them 4th or higher.
So while I like what I’m seeing from the team, I’d love to see some 5-4 regulation losses where the bounces in the defensive zone don’t go their way.
Claesson must have killed Boucher’s dog
I just don’t understand why Guy Boucher dislikes Fredrik Claesson so much, unless he actually killed his dog. Sure, he hasn’t been as effective as last season, but there’s literally no need to give a soon-to-be 30-year-old Erik Burgdoerfer minutes in the NHL over him.
As the twitter account Sens Prospects pointed out, even if he doesn’t want Claesson in the lineup, there are some clearly better options to choose from:
Why is Erik Burgdoerfer in the conversation for NHL playing time ahead of Andreas Englund, Ville Pokka or even Max Lajoie? Shame that Christian Jaros is injured.— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) March 13, 2018
Those four may never amount to be anything in the NHL, but at this pointless stage in the season, it makes a hell of a lot more sense to see what they can do rather than a journeyman AHL defenseman.
But this isn’t even really about Burgdoerfer (who got his first career point on Tuesday, so congratulations), it’s about this strange relationship between Boucher and Claesson. He’s been scratched numerous times throughout the season, and it’s not even like Ottawa has a plethora of better options. Boucher’s been taking him out of the lineup in favour of players like Burgdoerfer, Ben Harpur, Mark Borowiecki, Johnny Oduya.
He’s proven that he’s capable of being the defensive partner with Karlsson (53.18 CF% in 412 minutes), and it has to be hard gaining confidence if one night he’s getting top-pairing minutes, and the next night he’s a scratch. With the way the roster is constructed, Claesson deserves to play every night.