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Expanding their Options: Senators ask Phaneuf to waive NMC?
BOSTON, MA – APRIL 17: Dion Phaneuf #2 of the Ottawa Senators prepares for a faceoff in overtime against the Boston Bruins in Game Three of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden on April 17, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

I’ll get around to posting the 2016-17 Ottawa Senators eulogy someday, but in the meantime, there were some pretty interesting Sens-related thoughts in Elliotte Friedman’s latest ’30 Thoughts’ article.

With the conclusion of the NHL season being just hours or days away, the rumour mill and discussion leading up to the NHL expansion draft will heat up.

In Ottawa, we already knew that the conditions of Bobby Ryan’s contract do not preclude the Senators from automatically having to protect Ryan, but there has been quite a bit of speculation regarding the status of Dion Phaneuf.

Unlike Ryan, Phaneuf would have to agree to waive his no-movement clause (NMC) in order for the Senators to leave him unprotected for the expansion draft.

Thanks to the four years and $25.5-million that is remaining on Phaneuf’s contract, the prevailing sentiment is that the terms of Phaneuf’s deal should deter Las Vegas from ever putting in a claim.

Under the expansion draft guidelines, teams can protect eight skaters or seven defencemen and three forwards. By asking Phaneuf to waive his NMC operating under the belief that Vegas will not touch him, the Senators can essentially protect an extra defenceman.

In theory, it’s a no-brainer, but no one was really sure if the Senators would go down this path with Phaneuf.

Through the years, the hockey operations department has often handled its business by doing right by its veteran players. (Read: I’m just going to ignore that whole Daniel Alfredsson leaving for Detroit thing.)

According to Friedman however, it is believed that the Senators have asked Phaneuf to waive his NMC.

9. At his season-ending media conference, Ottawa GM Pierre Dorion said the Senators “would discuss internally” the possibility of asking Dion Phaneuf to waive his no-move, adding, “If ever we were to go that direction, I think I should let Dion know first.”

Dorion isn’t commenting, but word is Phaneuf was indeed asked to waive. That would allow Ottawa to protect Cody Ceci, Erik Karlsson and Marc Methot. I think the Senators have been asked a lot about Ceci over the past year, but they wisely held on. We’ll see what Phaneuf decides. I think Ottawa is sensitive to this one, because they feel Phaneuf has been a terrific teammate since he got there.

There’s a lot to digest here.

The Senators could placate whatever concerns Dion has by agreeing to trade a draft pick, prospect or player to Las Vegas to ensure that they don’t select him, but ideally the Senators don’t waste an asset protecting a player that Vegas should have little interest in. (And if the Golden Knights actually threaten to pick Phaneuf in an effort to extract a draft pick from the Senators, Dorion should tell George McPhee to put his money where his mouth is.)

In the worst-case scenario, Phaneuf could simply refuse to waive his NMC, meaning that the Senators are faced with the possibility of losing one of Marc Methot, Cody Ceci or Chris Wideman. The Senators would trade Methot or Ceci before losing them for nothing to expansion, but I don’t know if that sentiment would hold true for Wideman.

Although I really like Wideman’s ability to transition the play and move the puck up ice, the offensive production that he demonstrated in the AHL has not really manifested during his time in the NHL. In other words, without those sexy numbers that you find on the back of a hockey card, almost all of Wideman’s value is tied to his possession numbers and underlying metrics. The same metrics that made general manager Pierre Dorion want to punch his analytic people in the face whenever they suggest that Mark Borowiecki is not an effective player.

Friedman’s note on Ceci is interesting for a few reasons. On one hand, the Senators have a tendency to use the media and NHL insiders like Friedman to disseminate information about the availability of their players. They do it all the time to let teams know of perceived interest which helps pump up player’s value. I don’t know whether this is the case here with Friedman indicating that Ceci’s a player who has garnered a lot of attention over the year and that the Senators were wise to hang onto him, but it’s something to be mindful of.

On another note, Cody Ceci is a player that the Senators would be wise to flip and cash in on. The market for 23-year old right-shot defencemen is ridiculous right now and the Senators would be wise to cash in. His blend of age, handedness and pedigree will still enticing some general managers to overpay for him, but under the hood, he is a player that the Senators should not have a difficult time finding an upgrade or a replacement-level alternative. Relative to his on-ice contributions, he’s a player who undeniably brings more value to the organization as a trade chip.

Whether the Senators go down that route remains to be seen, but depending on how the market is, this may be the last chance for the organization to sell high.

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