The Ottawa Senators have found themselves a new fourth line centre.
According to Aaron Ward, the Senators officially turned the page on Chris Kelly’s career and brought Nate Thompson into the fold.
The 32-year old Thompson has played parts of 10 seasons in the NHL and he spent his last three seasons with the Anaheim Ducks. In 30 games last season, he tallied a goal and an assist.
If you’re judging Thompson by the numbers on the back of his hockey card, you’re going to be underwhelmed. He’s not really renowned for his offence. He set career highs in goals (10) and points (25) playing for the Tampa Bay Lightning during Guy Boucher’s first season as an NHL coach (2010-11), but that was almost seven years ago. He has not registered more than 20 points in any of the seasons since.
What Thompson represents is a left-shooting centre who plays a physical brand of hockey and is not afraid to drop the gloves. Last season, he averaged 2.3 hits per game and historically, he’s been a decent faceoff guy. He owns a career percentage is 52.1-percent in the circle. (Note: last season, Thompson had a 53.1-percent faceoff success rate, but Ryan Kesler was Anaheim’s best faceoff guy who took the bulk of the tough draws.)
Having moved on from Chris Kelly and with Viktor Stalberg’s future in limbo, Thompson can help replace some of those minutes on the penalty kill. Last season, he also averaged 1:35 of shorthanded ice time per game.
Beyond these things, the obvious connection to Guy Boucher or Thompson’s presence affording the organization the flexibility to take its time with its centre prospects, I don’t understand the signing.
I guess anytime you have the opportunity to sign and overpay a 32-year old centre who missed 51 games last season because he had surgery on his Achilles tendon, you have to do it.
Between the new extensions for Ryan Dzingel and Jean-Gabriel Pageau, it’s safe to assume that Thompson’s deal essentially exhausts the $4.9-million that was created when Vegas claimed Marc Methot in the expansion draft.
It would be one thing if the Senators had the ability to spend to the cap ceiling or this fourth line centre was actually good, but neither condition is true. The Senators are always pressed up against their internal cap and a replacement level player should probably earn half of what Thompson will now for each of the next two seasons.
It’s the most recent example of this organization’s struggle with its impulsiveness and willingness to commit too many dollars and too much term to redundant veterans who congest the depths of this roster.
Ignoring the fact that Thompson is coming off major surgery, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that his performance was trending down over recent years.
Not only were his production relative to ice time rates down considerably, the underlying possession metrics have only gotten worse and they were never strong to begin with.
Considering the player is frequently on the wrong side of shots, shots on goal and goals scored whenever he’s on the ice at five-on-five, it’s troubling seeing the kind of money that the tight-walleted Senators are throwing at him.
Spending $4.1-million so that Alex Burrows and Nate Thompson can hold down the fourth line is a poor allocation of their limited resources.
Understandably with the poor development of some of their recent first round picks might have compelled management to look for a buffer who could insulate these prospects until they are ready, but the development of players like Logan Brown, Colin White or even a Nick Paul has nothing to do with the failed development of players like Curtis Lazar. It has to do with the individual’s makeup, skill set, intelligence and willingness to put in the work to improve.
Considering how poor of a player Thompson is, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that one of their younger centres does not play Thompson out of a job with a strong camp.
If I was a businessman like Eugene Melnyk, I would have a hard time stomaching the fact that management keeps throwing considerable assets at superfluous veterans when it can get the same results for a fraction of the price. Or as one friend put it, “I can’t imagine being the owner of a team whose management group repeatedly ignores the latest data that can streamline their process.”
As I wrote in the end of the year eulogy for the Senators, despite the results, the Senators’ postseason run did nothing to assuage any concerns I had for the team’s process. This signing does nothing to remedy those feelings, if anything, it supports my concern.