For a time, it felt like the Senators were going to leave Colin White hanging like the prospect did to Gary Bettman at the 2015 NHL Draft.
When White’s sophomore season ended at Boston College, there were concerns that the Senators and White would not be able to come to terms on a contract before the end of the regular season.
The fear wasn’t so much that the Senators would not be able to come to terms on a deal with White and risk having him bolt as a collegiate free agent somewhere down the road, the concern stemmed from the Senators overlooking White as an internal alternative who could possibly be better than some of the players who are already on the parent roster.
Thanks to the continued struggles of the team’s bottom-six, it’s not like White’s being asked to clear some high hurdles.
Furthermore, considering this organization’s struggle to shed its playoff bubble image and the spectacular shittiness of the Eastern Conference, a lot of fans felt that this season might represent Ottawa’s best chance, as a dark horse team, to upset a few teams and make an extended run.
With time running out on inexpensive contracts to many of the team’s best players and the trade deadline moves to bring Alex Burrows and Viktor Stalberg into the fold, management made a conscious decision to go for it, so it only stands to reason that the organization should give a look to White to see if he can help.
So when the Ottawa Senators announced this afternoon that Colin White has signed a three-year entry-level contract and will join the team in Detroit, the news was met with some fan fare. (As an aside, it means that the first year of White’s contract will be burned this season.)
Granted, not everyone is overjoyed by the news.
Injuries may have forced the organization’s hand, but there definitely are a number of people who have anxiety over White’s future and understandably so.
As I mentioned above, Ottawa’s best players are essentially coming off their inexpensive first or second contracts over the next few years. Assuredly the Senators will retain the bulk of these players, but with each of these players being in line for a raise, the reality of Ottawa’s situation is that they’ll soon be paying these players more money for what are essentially the same results.
What I mean by that is that there are very few players on the parent roster who can realistically be expected to produce than they already are. There simply isn’t a lot of safely projectable growth on the roster. As far as how the current roster is constructed, I’m skeptical of know how much better this team can get unless it punts its roster detritus and starts making smarter personnel decisions to complement its core.
What this means is that there’s a considerable amount of pressure on blue chip prospects like Colin White and Thomas Chabot to not only develop, but develop into impactful players. If they fall short, it’s going to be incredibly difficult for the Senators to make that transition from an organization that is simply content to get into the playoffs to one that actually create a window of Stanley Cup contention.
It doesn’t help that there this omnipresent anxiety over White’s future is rooted because of the underwhelming development of failed collegiate free agents like Stephane Da Costa and Bobby Butler or previous first round picks like Jared Cowen, Cody Ceci and the recently departed Curtis Lazar like they’re one and the same.
Of course it’s easy to sit on the sidelines and preach patience when no prospect has ever had their development stall by spending extra time in junior or in the AHL. But conversely, having White be around the team and experience playing in a handful of games during a meaningful playoff stretch isn’t going to irreparably harm his development either.
There is no one-size fits all mentality when it comes to prospect development. It’s wrong to believe that every prospect develops at the rate and responds positively to the same stimuli or set of circumstances.
Giving White this opportunity now can’t hurt. He only has to bring more to the table than Tommy Wingels or Chris Kelly. How hard can that be?