This morning the Senators rid themselves of one prominent off-ice distraction shipping Mike Hoffman, Cody Donaghey and a 2020 fifth round pick to the San Jose Sharks for Mikkel Boedker, Julius Bergman and a 2020 sixth round pick.
Sharks general manager Doug Wilson then flipped Hoffman to the Florida Panthers for a second, fourth and fifth round pick in this weekend’s NHL Draft.
It’s an incredibly underwhelming return for a front-line player.
Obviously the publicity and coverage generated by the harassment allegations levied against Hoffman’s fiancee by Melinda Karlsson sunk his trade value and gave general manager Pierre Dorion a ready-made excuse for failing to maximize a return for the team’s best goal-scorer.
In saying that however, the circumstances do not preclude the Senators from criticism.
Rather than accept a similar package to what the Panthers offered the Sharks for Hoffman, the organization elected to bring in NHL-ready talent than stockpile prospects and draft picks that they could either use and develop themselves or move in a separate transaction.
Instead, the Senators willingly moved the best player and the higher pick in their trade with San Jose to acquire a third line winger.
Boedker turns 29 years old next December and his best years are behind him. He was once a promising young winger who put up intriguing points-per-60 rates and relative possession numbers in Phoenix around the same time that the Senators acquired Kyle Turris back in 2011, but that was seven years ago.
Since he’s matured and moved up in the lineup however, the scoring rates and possession numbers dropped as he began to face more difficult competition.
Boedker has never scored 20 goals and only twice has he registered 40 or more points in a season. With two seasons remaining on the four-year contract that he signed on July 1, 2016 that $3.0 million in real dollars while carrying an average annual value is $4.0 million, Boedker just becomes another name on the laundry list of moderately priced bottom-six forwards that the Senators have brought in over the last few seasons.
The frustrating element here is that the Senators had less interest in acquiring prospects and draft picks than they did in acquiring players who could play now.
In a league that is trending younger and draft picks carry more weight, the Senators would prefer to bring in another bottom-six winger and preserve competitiveness in a meaningless season than stockpile future assets.
It’s an indefensible for a team that is poised to be terrible in 2018-19 — before you even begin to consider that we are likely days away from an Erik Karlsson trade — unless the argument is that the Senators really like Julius Bergman.
Considering the uncertainty surrounding the futures of right-shot defencemen like Karlsson, Cody Ceci (RFA) and Chris Wideman (UFA), maybe the Senators believe that Bergman’s someone who can step into the lineup this season and play some minutes on the right side.
It’s worth noting that the 2014 second rounder (46th overall) turns 23 this November and has spent the past three seasons playing in the AHL without ever appearing in an NHL game – probably can probably be considered an indication of what San Jose thought of Bergman’s future worth.
Bergman had 10 goals (six power play tallies) and 20 points, 57 PIM and a -20 rating in 65 games for the San Jose Barracuda.
Here is what Corey Pronman had to write about Bergman at the time of his draft selection:
“Bergman is average in size (6-foot-1, 196 pounds), but has fine physical value because he plays hard and wins battles. Bergman plays a smart, steady defensive game with his positioning and overall reads, and his potential value will be as a penalty-killing defenseman who plays against talented players. He’s not the most skilled puck handler in the world.”
San Jose deserves full marks for their move.
They parlayed a bad contract belonging and a middling defensive prospect to accumulate draft picks (2018 second, fourth and fifth round picks) and help replace the ones it had moved out at this year’s trade deadline.
The hashtag #rebuild was trending in Ottawa following the deal, but this move doesn’t signify a rebuild at all. If it did, the Senators would have wound up with some kind of upside play in the form of draft picks or prospects.
Moving a top line winger and the higher of two picks for an aging depth forward and a prospect who does not safely project to be an NHL defenceman isn’t a smart play for most organizations let alone a small market franchise that really has to work the margins to be successful.
Using Dominic Galamini’s ‘Hero Tool‘, here’s how Hoffman stacked up relative to the average first line winger from 2015 through the 2016-17 season.
After today, it feels like Ottawa’s broke and broken.
They dealt Mike Hoffman to a Western Conference team and shortly thereafter, the Sharks dealt Hoffman back within the Senators’ division for a better return.
It’s one thing to be a small market team and lack resources to do some stuff, it’s another to be a small market team that has no idea how to operate efficiently.
In Craig Custance’s review of the trade for The Athletic, he left one interesting nugget of information from an anonymous source:
“The initial trade to the Sharks was bad enough but at least understandable. You could argue that the Senators want to keep Karlsson and were sending a message by dealing away Hoffman at the best available price. What followed wasn’t a good look for the Senators.
According to Tallon, he spoke with the Senators last week about a Hoffman trade but the price was too high. There wasn’t a fit since the Senators wanted players and not picks, which is puzzling in its own right.
According to an NHL source, the crux of the problem was trading in division and that the Senators were instructed not to make a deal within the division. That’s a bad policy anyways and that Hoffman ended up in Florida makes it even worse. This is a classic mismanagement of an asset, even one as devalued as Hoffman.”
The Senators would have been better off adding futures and inexpensive young assets to the organization for trade purposes or in hopes that many of them can develop and mature together. Dumping Hoffman’s salary like San Jose did, would have given the Senators the prospects and then the financial wherewithal to target a replacement level talent similar to Boedker. (Or, at least by freeing up the $11.3 million owed to Hoffman over the next two seasons, the Senators could free up more money for a Karlsson extension or give itself the flexibility not to marginalize a Karlsson return by lumping Bobby Ryan in with him.)
Instead the organization continues to exhibit a lack of creativity – electing to add low ceiling/safely projectable talent that can play now over higher upside plays that may put the organization in a more competitive down the road.
It’s a continued mismanagement of assets and it has to stop if this organization is to stand any chance of having sustained success, but at this point, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel without significant changes happening at the highest levels of the hockey operations department and ownership.