Following reports that the Ottawa Senators had asked Dion Phaneuf to waive his no-movement clause (NMC) for the purpose of exposing him in this summer’s expansion draft, TSN’s Bob McKenzie indicated that Phaneuf is not expected to waive his NMC.
Obviously words like “not expected to” aren’t definitive and leave the door open for the possibility that Phaneuf could change his mind. He has until Friday, June 17th at 5:00 pm ET to agree to make a final decision on whether to waive his NMC.
The Senators still have time to reach a trade agreement with Las Vegas to ensure that they would not select an exposed Phaneuf, which could lead to Phaneuf agreeing to waive his NMC, but if a deal cannot be struck and Phaneuf refuses to waive, it wouldn’t really be a huge surprise.
Even though the four years and $25.5-million in real dollars ($7.0-million average annual value) that remain on his contract should deter the Las Vegas Golden Knights from selecting him in the expansion draft, Phaneuf would essentially be protecting his own interests by using a mechanism that was negotiated into his contract.
Just like the Senators were protecting their own interests by asking the player to waive, so they could essentially protect an extra defenceman in the expansion draft, no one should really blame a player whose team just reached the Conference final for wanting to stay or displace his family to play for an expansion team that realistically shouldn’t be expected to contend over the remaining four years of his contract.
Some have openly criticized and hung blame on the organization for the fact that this process wasn’t kept hidden behind closed doors, but for me, it’s a non-issue.
Just as much as its Phaneuf’s right to waive his NMC, it’s the Senators’ right to do what’s in their best interests.
Considering the competitiveness within sports media to break information and the fact that so many other teams have asked veterans in similar positions to do the same thing, the information was bound to get out anyway. I mean, once a trade broke or the protection lists were made publicly available, it would have been difficult to piece together the sequence of events and arrive at a different conclusion than Phaneuf must have refused to waive his NMC.
But perhaps most importantly, it’s not like the Senators want to expose Phaneuf for the purpose of dumping his contract. They like the player and did it to ensure that they could protect another one of their defencemen.
I can understand the rationale of fans, media and or management for wishing that Phaneuf would waive his NMC because it would be in the team’s best interests if he did.
Thanks to his decline and the diminished returns on his contract, the likelihood of Phaneuf getting claimed is small. A refusal to waive his NMC essentially forces the Senators into a situation wherein they will have to expose some combination of Marc Methot, Cody Ceci, Chris Wideman and Fredrik Claesson.
Phaneuf’s refusal to waive could force the Senators to trade one of their top-four defenceman and thanks to the imposed deadlines, the Senators essentially lose leverage in trade negotiations because their trade partner recognizes that the Senators can’t risk losing a player for nothing to expansion.
Better something than nothing, but if the Senators can’t find a trade partner because teams are too concerned with their own players to make an opportunistic trade and upgrade a position of need, I can’t imagine the Senators protecting Methot at the expense of Ceci.
Based on Ceci’s age, cost, handedness, positional depth and pedigree, I would be shocked to see it happen. For these same reasons that I just mentioned, it wouldn’t a surprise to see the Senators look to move Ceci because he’s the player that they can maximize the value on in a trade.
All Phaneuf’s decision does is force the Senators’ hand.
For years, even with the inclusion of Phaneuf, I’ve preached that this organization improve its top-four and this could potentially be the mechanism that sees the Senators shake things up.
With two years and $9.8-million left on his contract, Methot carries a large price tag and turns 32 years old in one week. He’s been Erik Karlsson’s regular partner for the past few seasons, but as the evidence suggests, Karlsson’s never experienced difficulty playing with different partners.
That’s not to say that Methot is an ineffective player or isn’t valued. It is just evidence that supports the fact that Karlsson as a generational player who plays well irrespective of is defensive partner. The Senators’ surplus of left-shooting defencemen may lead them to believe that one is capable of stepping into Methot’s role or a top-four and provide replacement level value at a fraction of the cost – while allowing the Senators to reallocate this salary to improve the roster and/or re-sign the key core pieces in the near future.
It may be naïve to pencil Fredrik Claesson in and expect immediate dividends since his sample size of success at the NHL level isn’t very large, but Phaneuf is a player who could step into top pairing minutes and allow a Claesson or maybe even a Chabot to log second pairing minutes.
Or maybe the Senators elect to move Ceci in hopes that it’s still a seller’s market for young right-shooting defencemen. Unlike with Methot, the Senators do not have a ton of right-defence depth, but Phaneuf has played his off-side in the past and could do so again. The Senators could also elect to sign an unrestricted free agent like Cody Franson to fill the void.
On the surface, in a strictly one-for-one vacuum scenario, replacing a Methot with a Claesson or a Ceci with a Franson seems sexy. But in each situation, there’s added context because of what the Senators could potentially add by moving either defenceman. In other words, if Pierre Dorion could get similar performance or above-replacement performance from these spots on the roster while giving the team the opportunity to improve other spots on the roster.
Phaneuf’s decision may not have been the best one from a team perspective, but it does not preclude the Senators from improving the team through some creative roster decisions. If anything, it could help be a catalyst that helps move this team forward.