Senators general manager Pierre Dorion met with the media following Dion Phaneuf’s trade to the Los Angeles Kings. If you want to watch the entirety of Dorion’s comments, TSN posted video of it here.
The following is a transcript of what was said.
As always, my thoughts are in bold.
On an introduction for the media availability…
“First and foremost, we should thank Dion Phaneuf for his contributions and his time, his two years here. Dion was nothing but probably the best pro I’ve been around in my time in Ottawa. He did everything that was asked of him. He made other players on the team accountable. He played as hard as he could and he was a big part of our success last year. At the same time, we can’t forget to thank Nate Thompson for his contributions this year. He came in (on a) new team. He did exactly what we wanted of him. I don’t think he wanted to be traded, but when the opportunity came, I did speak to him personally to ask him if he wanted to go back to closer to where he had a home. And he was also very happy about it. He came in today, shook my hand and was very thankful for the opportunity to get to go to a team that is contending for a playoff spot.”
Thanking everyone from the players involved to the manager of whatever staff Dorion is dealing with has become a Dorion trademark.
Sometimes it feels like the good the organization does gets overshadowed by the self-inflicted chaos and disorder caused by the actions and comments of ownership, but it’s a small gesture by the general manager to make the club look better.
On why he made the move…
“The move was… for us, it was a move that we felt (we had) two positions where we feel we have quite a bit of depth. If you look at the defence position, we feel we have a lot of depth and also the fourth line centre, two positions that we feel we can develop and we have the pieces within that those players that are going to come in can do a good job – maybe not as good a job as the other two players that we moved, but we felt that we have some people that… and at the same time, it gives us a chance to add two forwards. We haven’t scored as much this year probably as we would have liked, so getting a guy like Marian Gaborik is someone who is a proven NHL goal scorer and Nick Shore is a really reliable role player.”
The Senators definitely have warm bodies on the backend, but management isn’t going to downplay the quality of that depth to the media – especially at a juncture when some of that depth should be peddled on the market ahead of the February 26th trade deadline.
According to Corsica.Hockey, the Senators rank 30th in the league in terms of goals allowed (2.79) and shots allowed per 60 minutes of five-on-five ice time (62.3). In regards to the volume of expected goals that the Senators should have given up based off the quality of the chances they are allowing, the Senators rank in the bottom third of the league.
Obviously these metrics are team-specific and shouldn’t only be used to criticize the team’s defencemen. The forwards, the system, the coaching staff and their lineups all bear responsibility as well.
With that said, the Senators’ shortcomings when Erik Karlsson is not on the ice are well-documented and this has to be the principle focus for Pierre Dorion and his staff. For years this team has skirted by with a mediocre blue line thanks to its misevaluations, preference for anachronistic archetypes and poor asset management and roster decisions.
It’s cute that Pierre Dorion played up the addition of two forwards and the team’s scoring problems. The team’s below average shooting percentage certainly has not helped, but if you want to look at the problems for the Senators this season, start with the results in goal and then work outwards.
On what the plans are for Marian Gaborik and his role on the Senators…
“He plays tomorrow.”
Gaborik started his Senators career by scoring a goal while playing on the team’s top line with Mike Hoffman and Matt Duchene.
From a usage perspective, it’s not surprising to see the Senators put him in a position to have success. It’s in Gaborik’s and the team’s best interests to have him produce and hopefully entice another team to trade for him.
On whether the plan is for Gaborik to remain in the lineup provided he can stay healthy…
“All I know is he’s healthy right now. We scouted him quite a bit this year. He really had some good times after he came back from his injury. He skated really well. I know he hadn’t played as much lately, but all I know is both him and Nick are playing tomorrow and I don’t think we should jump to any conclusions.”
I was looking at Gaborik’s goal and point production rates at five-on-five since the start of the 2007-08 season and although there is a noticeable dip from the conclusion of the 2013-14 season, Gaborik’s rates are not that bad this season.
Below is a look at how his five-on-five and power play rate statistics.
Even though the injuries have hampered his playing time and abilities, it’s not like he’s completely devoid of offensive skill. There’s still something left in the tank and the Senators are hoping that there’s enough there to convince some other team to roll the dice on him.
With Mike Hoffman and Matt Duchene rolling the way they are offensively, it’s entirely possible for Gaborik to piggyback off their success and help Dorion facilitate another trade.
On the rationale behind making the trade…
“We saved a bit of money, but at the same time, I think we were always dealing from a position of strength on our backend. Mr. Melnyk allowed us to retain some salary to give us some roster flexibility and for us, I feel it was just a good hockey move.”
Here is how the money breaks down:
|Dion Phaneuf||Nate Thompson||Marian Gaborik||Nick Shore|
|2017-18 (remaining $)||$1,994,624||$470,161||$1,362,903||$258,602|
|Phaneuf Retention (25%)|
Using the figures from the invaluable CapFriendly.com, had the Senators simply kept Nate Thompson through the remainder of the season, it would have costs the organization an estimated $2,464,785. By taking on Marian Gaborik, Nick Shore and retaining 25-percent of Phaneuf’s total annual salary, the Senators have essentially saved themselves $344,624 through the remainder of the season. (Note: I could also account for Ben Harpur’s salary as he replaces Phaneuf on the blue line, but then I would also have to account for the fact that Shore’s presence is shedding salary up front as one forward is shuttled to Belleville to make room for Shore. Harpur’s salary and the jettisoned forward would essentially wash each other out.)
Next season, the Senators would have spent $8,150,000 on the contracts of Thompson and Phaneuf, but instead, they will dole out a guaranteed $6,200,000 in the salary retention of Phaneuf ($1,625,000) and Gaborik’s salary ($4,575,000). Including the $650,000 Harpur is owed next season thanks to his new two-year contract extension, the Senators will commit $6,850,000 for a savings of $1,300,000. (Note: the reason why I didn’t include Shore’s contract – an estimated $1,027,000 based on Matt Cane’s model – is because I simply wanted to break this down into the Senators replacing one forward and one defenceman with this transaction.)
In 2019-20, the difference in Phaneuf’s salary ($6,500,000) versus what the Senators will spend on retention ($1,625,000), Gaborik’s salary ($3,175,000) and Harpur ($800,000), means that the Senators will save $900,000 that season.
In 2020-21, Phaneuf’s salary ($5,500,000), Gaborik’s salary ($3,075,000) and the retention ($1,375,000) all shrink – which means that the Senators’ savings grows to $1,050,000.
In other words, if we assume that the involved parties stay healthy and don’t retire over the course of their respective contracts trade, this trade will have saved the Senators $2,294,624.
Based off that number alone, evaluating this deal is a win for the Senators.
It may not seem like a lot of money to reinvest back into the player’s budget, but that kind of money can be wisely reallocated into other facets within the hockey operations department (scouts, analytics, software and other emerging tech) that can and should make the Senators more competitive down the road.
In case you are wondering why the Senators simply did not buy Phaneuf out, it seems like the most desirable course is to buy Gaborik out this offseason because it saves them more money.
Beyond the cost of buying out two-thirds of Phaneuf’s salary, the $4,500,000 in outstanding signing bonuses has to be paid on top of that salary – which means that holding onto Phaneuf through the remainder of this season ($1,994,624) and buying him out ($13,833,336) this summer would have wound up costing the Senators $15,827,960.
If the Senators have to go down the buyout route, it is cheaper for them to bring in the $1,362,903 remaining on Gaborik’s deal this season, buy out the three years remaining on it ($7,216,667) and pay the 25-percent salary retention ($4,998,968) on Phaneuf’s deal.
If the Senators buy Gaborik out ($13,578,538) as opposed to Phaneuf, the organization saves $2,249,422 (note:
I’ve seen some discussion that it may be in Ottawa’s best interests to Gaborik out at the conclusion of the 2018-19 season, but it’s preferable to do it as soon as possible.
If Gaborik plays the 2018-19 season and collects his $4,575,000 salary, it will cost an additional $4,166,667 to buy out the final two years of his deal. With Phaneuf’s salary retention, it’d actually cost more to buy Gaborik out following next season.
The Senators would never say it, but I wouldn’t doubt that they may be banking on Gaborik retiring or hitting the LTIR, so they can get out from under a significant portion of his deal without penalty.
Finally, the Phaneuf deal looked horrendous from the outset, but for those of you who are interested in what the involved cost of the Phaneuf deal is, you’re in luck.
When the Senators acquired Phaneuf, he was in the middle of the 2015-16 season in which he was being paid $8,000,000. According to an HFBoards thread at the time of the trade, Phaneuf had approximately $1,967,000 left on his deal, so I’m going to roll with that.
The aforementioned HFBoards post indicated that Michalek, Greening and Cowen were to be owed a combined $3,425,000 over the remainder of the 2015-16 season at the time of the trade.
- Phaneuf was owed $1,967,000 for the remainder of the 2015-16 season
- Phaneuf was paid $7,500,000 for the entirety of the 2016-17 season
- Phaneuf will be paid $5,504,032 by the Senators (including salary retention) for 2017-18
- Had the Senators kept Michalek, Greening and Cowen through 2015-16, the Senators would have paid them a combined $3,425,000
- If the Senators bought this trio of players out at the end of the 2015-16 season, it would have cost them $6,299,998
Add it all together and the Phaneuf trade wound up costing the Senators an additional $5,246,034 and that’s before accounting for the inevitability of a Gaborik buyout this summer. Assuming that happens, the 2016 Phaneuf trade will have cost the Senators $18,824,572.
I crucified the deal at the time it was made and assuredly, Dorion will get some praise for making this deal now, but the best thing he could have done was convince Bryan Murray that this was a bad play. It looked bad then as much as it looks bad now. We didn’t need the benefit of hindsight to see that.
The counter-argument of course is that Phaneuf’s presence played some part in last season’s playoff run, but to me, the replacement level is still pretty low. Phaneuf and Ceci have simply been brutal together as a pairing and the quality of minutes there is lacking by every statistical measure. For me, last year’s version of the Senators goes nowhere without Karlsson and Anderson and this allocation of money could have been spent more efficiently.
On the logistics in making a mid-game hockey trade…
“Yeah, we’ve done it twice this year. We did it with Matt Duchene where he came off the ice. It’s the second time we’ve done it this year. Just the way, you know, through this process Luc Robitaille and Rob Blake, they’ve been tremendous to deal with. Rob and I talked on two occasions on Monday and then yesterday we ended up talking in the late afternoon. I just said, ‘Text me before the game,’ and somehow we came to an understanding. They were extremely professional. They wanted Dion and I can’t blame them for wanting Dion. In that Conference, they have a lot tougher games. It’s a bigger Conference and I would probably have to say it’s more physical and I think (Dion) will be well-suited to play and help the LA Kings. And at the same time, we felt that if we could give Marian Gaborik a little sparkplug here to produce to the same level that we think he can produce, I think it was a good deal on both sides.”
It’s an emerging trend, but still has a long ways to go before approaching baseball’s hug watch levels.
On whether other teams were interested in Dion Phaneuf’s services or whether this was a trade made to accommodate a player and his family’s livelihood…
“Yeah, I think we’re good people in Ottawa. I think for the most part, I don’t know if I’d compare it to exactly Mike Fisher. I think every situation and every trade is different one from the other. We all know that Dion had his first child. His wife, most of her business happens in Los Angeles, but at the same time, I think Dion wanted to play for a hockey team that he felt was on the up-and-up. There were other teams that inquired about Dion, but talks never got too far along the way. But at the same time, I think we did what was best for our organization today.”
I can’t imagine any offers for Dion being of any quality, so if this was the best the Senators could do, that essentially tells you all you need to know.
On whether he anticipates being more active towards the deadline…
“(I’ve talked to) nine GMs today, in case you were wondering.”
Without anything to measure this against, I don’t know whether I should be impressed.
On why Dion Phaneuf deal going down midgame…
“It was the call. Rob (Blake) and I talked. I said, ‘I’ll pull my guy out.’ He actually said… they’re in a playoff race, we’re not and he said, ‘Pierre, do you mind if our guys play?’ I said, ‘No, if they get hurt, we’ll still take both of those guys.’ It was just a gentlemen’s agreement and I said, ‘I’ll take my guy out. It’s not an issue for us. I’d rather do that, I’m trying to help you out here.’ Rob had no issues and we had no issues with their guys playing and our guys not.”
If Gaborik got hurt, you’re damn right the Senators would still take him.
On how much of an opportunity this is before the trade deadline to get the team where they want it to be heading into the offseason…
“Yeah, we’ll we’re going to be doing a lot of things. We’re going to do a lot of things to make sure that we can field as competitive team as we can – whether it’s in the near future or whatever future you want to look at. But, this is an exciting time, I think, for our fans because we know we’re going to do some good things for the organization. We’ll do a lot of good things and we’re looking forward to it.”
The trade deadline is a always vehicle of optimism for rebuilding teams. Case in point, look at the Phaneuf/Gaborik trade that’s being widely praised for saving the Senators money. Randy Lee and Pierre Dorion were assistant general managers when this deal was made, but no one is talking about their complicity or inability to talk their boss into doing something regrettable.
The problem facing the Senators is that there is a serious lack of trust between this fan base and its owner, especially after he admitted that the Senators have cutback everywhere in the front office.
It’s hard to have optimism when the front office is short-staffed and there are rumours of scouts not being reimbursed for expenses are floating out there. Of course it does not help that the guys are charge helped oversee the process and as such, are also partially responsible for where this franchise is in its growth curve.
Obviously the pressures from ownership to emphasize short-term results have detrimentally influenced some of the decision-making here and as such, it gets a little more complicated trying to analyze and assess the front office’s worth, but we cannot and should not simply expect Dorion and company to wash their hands of this mess and throw all the blame on Eugene Melnyk.
So that’s why it’s all a little awkward.
Fans should definitely be happy if the Senators get assets back in return for redundant veterans like Johnny Oduya, but it’s going to take more than a high pick and a few draft picks to get fans unequivocally back onboard.
It’s just one part of helping bring back this club to respectability.
On the organization talking about how it was going to emphasize scouting and development and how this trade may not necessarily reflect that on the surface…
“I don’t agree with you. I’m not sure where the question is going either.”
On whether this trade is part of the larger plan to emphasize scouting and development…
“We traded a 32-year old and a 33-year old and at the same time, we feel that what I said last week is, this is definitely part of the plan. But, we’re not going to talk about the specifics of the plan.”
Mexico is going to pay for and build the Senators’ blue line.
On how drastically the blue line has changed after one year and whether there’s any remorse in losing Methot to Las Vegas…
“Well, I don’t know if there is any point in revisiting Methot because Las Vegas paid a lot of money to get a player. We knew we’d lose a player and if you look at the four teams that were in the Conference finals last year, they all lost significant pieces. I think we make a bit too much of Erik’s play because of Marc Methot. I think if we’re realistic in knowing what Erik had to go through, he was not going to be 100-percent for a while and that’s not because of Marc Methot, that’s because of Erik Karlsson. At the same time, there’s no regrets about how we do things here. Dion and I had a good man to man conversation at the start of the year. He understood that this was a business and I did ask him to waive is no-move (clause) and he had the right with everything that he’d accomplished not to waive that no-move (clause). And there was total respect on my behalf because if not, we could have thought about moving maybe Dion to a place where he wouldn’t be as excited to go. But, we do what’s right here in Ottawa and we believe we did what’s right for the organization and the player and there’s no looking back. We’re only looking forward to what we can do in the future.”
Yeah, the Methot stuff gets a lot of play and yeah, the blue line has been a mess and Karlsson doesn’t look like his usual self.
Between Karlsson’s injury, his inability to work out efficiently during the offseason and Guy Boucher’s love of Johnny Oduya, Karlsson’s play has suffered, so naturally fans are going to link his performance to the departure of the popular Methot.
It’s just too easy.
Karlsson won a Norris playing alongside Filip Kuba and he has looked great alongside Freddy Claesson and Thomas Chabot, so people should stop thinking his struggles are strictly created by Methot’s absence.
Methot’s departure was strictly a cash dump by an organization looking to shed money.
We can get mad at Dion Phaneuf for not waiving his no-trade clause or the organization for not finding common ground on a trade with Los Angeles last summer, but if this was strictly a hockey move, the smartest play would have been to leave Cody Ceci unprotected in the expansion draft.
On whether Dorion feels he’s close to making another deal…
“Nine GMs I talked to today and (I) wasn’t able to make a deal, so…”
On whether there’s any feeling that he’s close on anything since the deadline feels like it is still some time away…
“Well, February 26th is 12 days away, so I don’t know. You can spin it the way you want, but I think at the same time, nothing’s imminent. But I didn’t feel yesterday nothing was imminent after my conversations from Monday, so we’re going to take it day by day. We’re going to do what’s right for the organization. We have a plan in place. We know how we’re going to go about our plan. I’m excited about the future of this team. I’m excited about the future of this organization and I don’t think there’s much more to add.”
The Senators moved Chris DiDomenico to the Blackhawks on Thursday for Ville Pokka. A right-shooting defenceman who gives the Senators a little more depth there. Thanks to the uncertain futures facing Erik Karlsson, Cody Ceci and Chris Wideman this summer, the Senators need to protect themselves in the event that one or more of these players move on.
Pokka was once highly regarded within the prospect industry.
In 2015, Corey Pronman ranked him as the NHL’s 24th best drafted prospect (paywall) for ESPN Insider.
Pokka was drafted in the second round of 2012 and he turns 24 this June. In parts of four AHL seasons, he has tallied 28 goals and 127 points in 266 games. He has not played in an NHL game.
On whether the Senators will look drastically different on February 27th…
“That’s hearsay, naysay. I can’t tell you that. We’re going to make good hockey deals. I think we have two players that are pending UFAs – Johnny Oduya and Magnus Paajarvi. We’re going to make good hockey deals if we make hockey deals and I think 30 of my counterparts know that.”
If you are set on moving a player, selling at the NHL trade deadline and taking the highest bid is one of the easiest things a general manager can do. With so many Senators players being mentioned and having their names be bandied about in rumours, at least there’s a certain element of intrigue here because no one really knows whether the Senators are going to engage in a full rebuild or not.
On whether Nick Shore was a guy that the Senators were looking at…
“He’s playing tomorrow.”
On whether the Senators are looking at a long rebuild or more of a retool…
“Obviously we would like to compete for the playoffs next year. There’s no doubt about that, but at the same time, we want to have a team here that will be able to compete every year for the playoffs.”
I don’t want to crack on Pierre Dorion for wanting to create sustainable success, but the aspiration has to be more than just making the playoffs. Vying for the playoffs every season is something that this organization has done every season since it reached the 2007 Stanley Cup Final. Fans want something more than a playoff bubble team (and honestly, if not for some terrible goaltending, this team could be fighting for a spot). They want to see a team that has a Stanley Cup contender trajectory and I don’t believe fans have confidently believed in the Senators’ trajectory since 2011 when the team sold fans on undergoing a massive rebuild (that never came to be).