Once Colin White’s sophomore season at Boston College is over, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that the Senators would sign Colin White to an entry-level contract (ELC).
It wasn’t without complications however.
In accordance with the NHL’s CBA, “if a player who is signed to an entry-level contract and is 18 or 19 years of age (as of September 15 of the signing year), does not play in a minimum of 10 NHL games (including both regular season and playoffs; AHL games do not count), their contract is considered to ‘slide’, or extend, by one year.”
Since White played in the NCAA and that sporting body’s eligiblity rules preclude prospects from signing professional contracts without losing their NCAA eligibility, it meant that White can only sign an ELC once he felt comfortable leaving school. In other words, now that White is 20-years old and ready to leave school, the the NHL’s ELC “slide rule” no longer applies to him.
Meaning, if the Senators wish to sign White, he will burn a year off his ELC by playing in just one professional game similar to how Johnny Gaudreau burned a year off his ELC by playing in the Calgary Flames’ final game of the 2013-14 season.
According to Bruce Garrioch, it’s the loss of this first year that is giving the Senators cause for concern.
Even though burning a year off his contract will not count towards an accrued season of experience for the purpose of pushing him closer towards unrestricted free agency (note: in order for this to happen, White would still need to play in 40 or more professional games this season), the Senators are reportedly adamant that they want to have White agree to an amateur tryout that would allow White to play the remaining 10 to 12 games on Binghamton’s AHL schedule without losing that important year.
The fact that White would be playing professionally without receiving any real financial compensation for his services beyond a per diem is only just an added perk.
“Hey Colin, we’d really like you to experience being a professional hockey player, we just don’t want to pay you or burn a year on your entry-level contract.”
Why are the Senators so worried about losing that extra year on White’s ELC?
It could be player development. Looking at Ottawa’s roster, the only homegrown first rounders on it are Erik Karlsson and Cody Ceci. Beyond Karlsson’s 2008 draft year, the Senators’ first round picks have either been dealt because the Senators packaged them in a deal or because their development floundered and the organization felt like it was best to get some value for them before they lost their value entirely.
Whether the stagnated development of players like Ceci or the recently departed Curtis Lazar has forced management to reconsider their options with White is only known to them, but I have a hard time believing that he doesn’t represent an upgrade over some of the players already here.
Players like Tommy Wingels, Tom Pyatt and Chris Kelly have played poorly at even strength this season. Mind you, the latter two players have logged significant shorthanded minutes for a middle of the pack penalty kill unit, so the coaching staff may be hesitant to remove them from the lineup.
That said however, it’s impossible to ignore how ineffective these players have been.
There’s definitely something to be said about Kelly having to spend the bulk of his season playing alongside ineffective anchors like Lazar and Chris Neil, but of the 334 forwards who have played more than 500 five-on-five minutes this season, Kelly is the third least productive player in the entire league. Coupled that with some underwhelming relative possession metrics and the fact that his faceoff numbers have gone in the tank, the only thing that he has going for him is veteran experience.
Even if you’re skeptical about what White can bring to the table as a 20-year old who has only played at the college level, Chris Kelly has set the bar so low that it’s essentially impossible for White not to be an upgrade at this spot.
Hell, even Alex Burrows has been terrible since arriving in Ottawa.
Since the trade deadline, here is how the Senators have fared with Burrows on the ice at five-on-five (numbers via Corsica.Hockey):
|Goals For %||70.0|
|Expected Goals For %||38.8|
|Corsi Events For %||41.8|
|Shots For %||44.9|
|Scoring Chances For %||40.5|
Those certainly aren’t the kind of numbers the Senators are hoping for, especially when they overpaid in assets, money and term to bring Burrows into the fold. (As an aside, it’s just a microcosm of what has plagued management in recent years: it’s poor asset management. Simply put, the production that they are getting is not commensurate with the opportunity cost that they are giving up to acquire these inefficient players.)
Considering how much this organization over-committed to bring in such a player during his age 36 to 38-year old seasons to help this team now, isn’t it weird that this same organization is unwilling to take a shot on the likelihood that White is already better than some of its players now. I mean, if we’re talking about doing whatever it takes to give this team the best opportunity to win now, shouldn’t the organization be doing everything within its power to put the best roster on the ice at a time when this team’s best players are under cost-efficient deals?
As a playoff bubble team, the Senators simply can’t bank on being in the postseason every year and with a weak Eastern Conference that may be ripe for an upset or two, this season may represent Ottawa’s best chance of success.
If this is their window of opportunity, go for it and if it means punting the first year of White’s ELC, so be it. But just in case you’re one of those fans who’s still wavering on the idea, there’s an added benefit. Chances are that if the Senators burn a year on White’s deal, his second contract will be less expensive than if it would be if White played three full seasons.