Shortly after the 2017 NHL Draft, Sportnet‘s Elliotte Friedman created a bit of a stir by mentioning in his ‘30 Thoughts‘ column that “Ottawa GM Pierre Dorion had a lengthy conversation with Los Angeles compatriot Rob Blake during the later rounds of the draft.”
At the time, Friedman surmised that the Senators could be discussing the parameters of a Dustin Brown for Dion Phaneuf trade because “both have the same cash remaining — $25.5 million. Brown’s AAV is lower ($5.875 million to Phaneuf’s $7 million), but he has five years left on his contract to Phaneuf’s four. The Senator defenceman can go to Los Angeles, but I’m not sure if Brown’s list allows him to go to the Canadian capital.”
Aside from spreading the money out over a longer period of time, the deal as Friedman never really made that much sense. Having just lost Marc Methot, another top-four defenceman, to Vegas in the expansion draft earlier that week, it never really made much sense for the Senators to move a player who logs big minutes on the blue line for a redundant depth forward just so that the organization could enjoy some short-term budget relief.
In his latest ‘30 Thoughts‘ column that was published today, Friedman addressed his concocted Phaneuf/Brown proposal before explaining that it wasn’t Brown who the two teams were actually discussing.
“When I speculated a couple of weeks ago that a Kings-Senators deal involving Dustin Brown and Dion Phaneuf made sense because the money is almost even, I think I guessed the wrong L.A. player. More likely, they were discussing Marian Gaborik.”
Although such a trade would still leave the Senators with having to fill two holes in their top-four on defence, it seems pretty apparent that the Senators’ willingness to move Phaneuf has less to do with the Senators making a hockey move as much as it has to do with dumping Phaneuf’s contract.
Here’s a look at what’s remaining on each player’s respective contract:
|Dion Phaneuf||4 years, $25.5-million|
|Marian Gaborik||4 years, $15.9-million|
The Senators would save almost $10-million over the course of the next four years, assuming that the 35-year old Gaborik would not retire before his contract ended. Perhaps most importantly, if Gaborik were to retire before his contract ended, the money owed would not count against the Senators’ cap because it’s not a 35-plus contract. In other words, because Gaborik did not sign a multi-year contract when he was 35 years old or older, his individual cap hit will not count against the team’s cap hit if he elects to retire. (Not that it would really matter that much, mind you. It’s not like the small-market Senators have flirted with the cap ceiling or will be expected to over the next few seasons.)
What the Senators would have done with the savings is subject to debate.
There’s no question that Phaneuf offers greater value to the Senators than this shell of what Gaborik once was, but maybe the Senators would have reallocated the money to bring in another defenceman or maybe Eugene Melnyk simply would have pocketed the savings because the negotiations were driven strictly by a motivation to slash payroll.
My suspicion is that the negotiations were driven by a motivation to slash payroll, but maybe the organization would be better served if it stopped signing superfluous depth pieces to expensive contracts. The deals awarded to players like Colin Greening, Jared Cowen, Milan Michalek, Alex Burrows, Nate Thompson are damaging and easily avoidable. Anyone with their finger on the pulse of this team did not need the benefit of hindsight to know that these were bad deals at the time they were made.
Of course, it’s easy for me to say that when I’m not in the general manager’s chair and don’t have an impulsive owner breathing down my neck.