Just as defenceman Brian Lee started to solidify his place as a regular in the Ottawa Senators lineup, the Sens traded him to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for 27-year-old defenceman Matt Gilroy.
Gilroy wasn't drafted in the NHL, but was a highly sought-after free agent after a successful four-year stint with Boston University, and signed with the New York Rangers prior to the 2009-10 season. He was a point-producer in college, but hasn't produced to the same degree so far in the NHL (9G, 34A in 180GP so far). But he's a proven winner: He was the 2009 Hobey Baker Trophy winner, in the same season he captained the Boston University Terriers squad won the NCAA championship. He's an UFA at the end of the season, and is currently on a one-way, $1M contract.
At first glance, we traded Lee for a player who's smaller, older, and undrafted, but Gilroy's a good skater who's put up decent, if unspectacular, numbers so far. In fact, Gilroy's put up more points in three seasons as a pro than Lee has in five, which tells you a lot about the reasons for the deal.
The timing is strange, given that Lee's finally looking like an actual top-six defender, but this could be a case of dealing the much-maligned defender while his value is highest--and acquiring a more experienced defender while his value is lower.
Expect Gilroy to slot in on the Sens' third pairing, alongside Chris Phillips or Jared Cowen. He'll also likely step up onto the second powerplay unit, a position he played in college and has done, here and there, with the Lightning this season. That will also allow the Sens to bump Phillips off the PP and let him focus on penalty-killing and defence.
One interesting note about Gilroy, which I found out during his post-trade interview on the Team 1200: He was actually a forward until he started playing with Boston University. This explains why he's an offensively-inclined defender (did you see that photo up top, with him in front of the opponents' net? Probably all you need to know) but it also might mean that Gilroy has ample room to improve in terms of positional defence. With Phillips, Sergei Gonchar, Filip Kuba, and Luke Richardson on board in Ottawa and willing to share their wisdom with him, there's reason to believe his overall game will improve regularly.