For a relationship that allegedly began with players high-fiving and hugging Pierre Dorion in the dressing room, someone may now have to give the Senators’ general manager a consolatory hug for how the Alex Burrows has panned out.
Today it was announced that the Senators had put Burrows on waivers for the purpose of buying out the one-year and $2.5 million left on his contract.
Burrows was acquired at the 2017 NHL trade deadline in a move that was to bolster the Senators’ bottom six depth as the team made a push for a postseason berth.
To bring the veteran into the fold, the Senators not only had to flip their third-best prospect, 2016 second rounder Jonathan Dahlen, the Senators had to extend a two-year, $5 million contract extension to Burrows to get him to waive his no-trade clause.
From the opportunity cost used to acquire Burrows, to the egregiously offensive contract extension awarded to a player who was on the decline and would be 38 years old by the time his extension ended, it was an overpay in every sense of the deal.
No one needed the benefit of hindsight to realize that this trade was going to haunt the Senators and the deal was widely panned from the outset.
In 91 regular season games for the Senators, Burrows scored 12 goals and 25 points.
Four of those goals and six of those points came within his first six games and Burrows’ good fortune essentially extended through the rest of his 20-game span with the Senators during the 2016-17 regular season. If not for the fact that he scored on essentially every fifth shot he took (20.7 shooting percentage) after joining the Senators that season, his overall numbers would crater.
The buyout will cost the Senators two-thirds of Burrows’ contract value spread out over twice the term. In other words, with a $2.5 million salary on the remaining year of his deal, the buyout will save the Senators $833,333.
Almost one year after it was determined that Burrows’ character was worth the prohibitive cost, the Senators now would rather save money and open up a roster spot than keep Burrows’ character in the fold to help repair a “broken” dressing room.
Obviously Burrows’ dismissal could instinctively be downplayed because of the Senators’ deep run in the postseason, but it’s not like Burrows was a significant contributor to the team’s’ success.
Burrows finished ninth among Senators forwards in average ice time per game (14:24) and recorded no goals and five assists over 15 games. Beyond the surface numbers, the Senators were on the wrong side of shots and scoring chances when Burrows was on the ice at five-on-five.
The best thing that you can say about Burrows was that he wasn’t Chris Neil, Chris Kelly or Curtis Lazar, which was one of the worst statistical fourth line trios in the league in 2016-17. Even if Burrows wasn’t particularly great, he still represented an upgrade over the players he helped bump out of the lineup.
The Senators’ helped improve their margins, but they paid a disproportionate price to do it. It might be easy to romanticize the team’s success and attribute it to character and veteran leadership, but if it’s not for Erik Karlsson’s one-legged heroics Craig Anderson stopping 92.2 percent of the shots he faced, the Senators never would have reached the Conference final. And frankly, had Burrows been replaced by Tommy Wingels in the lineup, the Senators probably would have been just as successful.