The Ottawa Senators are having trouble lately going more than a few days without something embarrassing to the organization, but this time the wound was not self-inflicted.
TSN’s Darren Dreger appeared on Edmonton’s TSN 1260 Thursday morning where he was asked a an innocuous question about how well Mike Hoffman would fit playing on Connor McDavid’s wing.
Rather than salivate over the potential of putting one of the game’s most gifted goal scorers alongside the league’s best young, generational talent, Dreger went off the board and referenced something that had been suppressed in the cities of Edmonton and Ottawa.
The following quotes were pulled from Chris Nichols’ transcript on FanRagSports.com.
“I think that there’s some history between these two organizations that is going to hamper the likelihood of a deal. We remember Peter Chiarelli back in the early days and he had that squabble before going to Boston with the Ottawa Senators. There was some bad blood there as he tried to get out and all of those things. I don’t know if that still lingers, but some think it might.”
Everyone in the nation’s capital remembers Zdeno Chara bouncing out to Boston as an unrestricted free agent shortly before it was announced that Peter Chiarelli would be following him out the door to take the Bruins’ general manager position.
But, what we never saw coming was Dreger destroying that hypothesis immediately after he just made it by announcing to the hockey world that the Senators and Oilers came close to making a blockbuster trade during the 2016 offseason.
“And these two clubs came real close to making a pretty big trade not that long ago and just couldn’t get it done, and that trade was Taylor Hall for I think they finally got to a place where Ottawa was willing to consider Cody Ceci – so it would have been Hall for Ceci – but had to be cleared in Ottawa through ownership. And before they could get clearance, Hall got traded to New Jersey for Larsson.
“So I don’t know that these two teams are best suited to make a deal, but I know that Peter Chiarelli should and does have some interest in Mike Hoffman.”
Given Dreger’s phrasing, he sure made it sound like Cody Ceci was the centrepiece in a trade for Taylor Hall.
TSN 1260’s host, Dustin Nielson, sensed the same thing and asked Dreger whether there had to be more to that deal to make it palatable for Edmonton.
“I don’t think so. I don’t think so,” Dreger responded.
There are so many things to discuss here.
How many trade variations did the Senators try to make before conceding and agreeing to move Cody Ceci? What took Melnyk so long to get back to Dorion that it put the deal in jeopardy? Had the Senators rightfully agreed to move Ceci at the beginning of the negotiations, would that have given them the necessary time to get the deal signed off and avoid having New Jersey get into the fray?
Obviously when the Senators are dealing a player in Ceci, who was on his entry-level contract at the time, for a player who was in the third year of his seven-year contract that pays him $6-million annually, the finances and budget has to be re-worked. I get that, but when you’re talking about acquiring one of the best wingers in the game and all it will cost is Cody freaking Ceci, how does the trigger not get pulled right away? Any budgetary concerns are worried about and left to a later date. I mean, come on, it’s Taylor Hall!
The optics for both teams don’t look great.
It certainly doesn’t look great for Peter Chiarelli for almost accepting a worse offer than the one he was universally panned for and from an Ottawa perspective, it’s another missed opportunity that will bring more heat down on ownership signing off on a franchise altering trade fast enough.
Eugene Melnyk could use some positive PR and this certainly isn’t going to help.
At the time of the interview, I wondered whether this information was being intentionally leaked to sully Melnyk’s reputation further, but in a separate interview on TSN 1200, Dreger elaborated on his intentions when he dropped this bomb.
“At least, that’s my understanding. It could have been Taylor Hall for Cody Ceci, but you know again, I think we need to embrace the context of this. Pete Chiarelli is trying to establish a full market on Taylor Hall and he was ridiculed when he made the trade with the New Jersey Devils – told that he didn’t get enough. And (Adam) Larsson’s turned out to be a good defenceman and he’s had his ups and downs like a lot of the Edmonton Oilers players this year, but Chiarelli went through that process. And I recall at the time talking about the teams that I believed and we at TSN believed were in the mix at the time – and Ottawa was in there. What we didn’t know at the time was how deep Ottawa was in there and again, not being privy to the conversation exactly that went on between Ottawa and Edmonton, but at the time, it was information that I was collecting out of Alberta that suggested that maybe Ottawa was closer than what we thought. I remember thinking on it and then *poof* Taylor Hall gets traded to New Jersey and end of story.
“So, it’s just that information has been revisited over the last week or so, I would say. When I mentioned it on Edmonton TSN radio this morning, it was more in acknowledgment of the work that Pierre Dorion continues to do. I was asked about Mike Hoffman and what might be on the table for Hoffman from a Sens perspective and who might be interested and all that. And I was discussing that and then there’s this guy who’s proven, in Dorion, who made the Duchene trade and he was involved in this discussion way back in the day for Taylor Hall that could have ended up in a simple one-for-one – Cody Ceci for Taylor Hall. But, before Dorion had made up his mind or got approval from Eugene Melnyk, within a couple of hours or whatever the time was, Chiarelli moved in a different direction with the New Jersey Devils in the Larsson trade. Now just to finish off my thought, that was misconstrued today in my opinion and that’s why I tried to clarify my position on that on Twitter. Maybe I didn’t make myself clear, but I did not say that Eugene Melnyk vetoed this deal. That wasn’t the case. That wasn’t the case, but this was a process that all teams go through and obviously Chiarelli decided to go in a different direction.”
If Dreger was trying to play up the fact that Dorion’s an active GM who tirelessly works the phones looking for deals, it stands to reason that the Senators were the ones who leaked this deal.
It sheds light on Dorion coming close on a homerun deal, but Dreger’s comments also portray him as a victim of circumstance. There’s also the added element wherein Cody Ceci’s trade value may no longer be substantial enough to land big pieces.
Like mentioning how the Senators were uncomfortable dealing Ceci in the Matt Duchene deal or Jonathan Drouin deal, maybe by leaking his involvement in this deal, the Senators are trying to spur the market and artificially inflate his trade value before the arbitration eligible defenceman hits restricted free agency this summer.
Senators Receive “Futures” Driven Offer on Mike Hoffman
According to a separate Darren Dreger report, the Senators have received a “futures” driven offer for Mike Hoffman.
As I have written about recently over at The Athletic, unless management has received an explicit order to dump salary in this lost season, it does not make any sense to sink this team’s short-term competitiveness until Erik Karlsson makes a decision on whether or not he wants to remain with the Ottawa Senators.
With two seasons left on Hoffman’s contract, the Senators shouldn’t be rushing to a decision on his future now, especially when the trade return is the kind one would expect to see a rebuilding team make.
Obviously it could prove difficult for the organization to dump bad contracts that belong to bottom-six players or underachieving veterans, but the Senators should not double-down on their ill-advised spending by trading Mike Hoffman when the team is going through a stretch like this.
Until the Senators move Karlsson and signify that the rebuild is officially on, the Senators would do well to let the season to play out a little bit longer.