Monday, February 13, 2006

Let's not go nuts, people

Though I rarely agree with his viewpoints on the Senators, J.P. Allard’s Smarting Sens blog is still a worthwhile read most of the time.

I’ve come to know Allard for his outlandish ideas, and he took it to another level last week with his desire to see them trade Wade Redden.

Let’s look at what J.P. had to say. First off:

Locking in Spezza to a multi-year deal is a no-brainer

Is it really?

When people talk about the need to lock up Spezza long-term, they often cite the Rick Nash deal as the blueprint. In case you forget, over the summer, Columbus re-signed Nash, their unquestionable franchise player, to a five-year, $27 million contract, but the two’s teams situations are incredibly different.

As J.P. even says, going into this offseason, the Sens will have a ton of players to re-sign, the most prevelant being Zdeno Chara and Redden. As well, Martin Havlat will need a new contract (if you believe Bruce Garrioch, Havlat might be involved in the Olli Jokinen deal should it happen.) The BlueJackets did not have nearly the same problem, mostly because there weren’t a whole lot of players they wanted back after sucking for so long.

For Columbus, who had a ton of cap space, signing Nash to that deal sort of made sense. It still remains to be seen if this method will work, but for them, having their franchise played locked in at $5.4 three years from now, when he’ll likely be among the league’s top goal scorers.

A case could be made that it was a risky signing because Nash had only been an elite player for one season, but it was probably a risk worth taking.

The Senators, however, are in an entirely different boat, and frankly, signing Spezza should be their last priority this offseason.

Because of his age and lack of seniority in the league, Spezza won’t be eligible for arbitration, so the threat of comparables isn’t a factor. If he was, obviously, this would be an whole different discussion, because Spezza would most likely be looking at top dollar based on the numbers he’s going to put up this season.

The only leverage Spezza has is the threat of holding out, and I’m sure he and his agent will use it. However, that will only go so far. There is the possibility that some other team will tender him an offer sheet (though those seem to have gone the way of the dinosaur). If they do, then you think about matching it, however, if it’s a deal that will handicap the Sens significantly down the road financially, it might be worthwhile to think about taking the five 1st round draft picks.

so it comes down to a choice between the team’s top two defensemen. Who do you keep and who do you say to, “Sayonara, it’s been nice, but we didn’t win the Cup with you?”

While it’s certainly quite possible the team will have to make a choice between the two of them, I’m not sure it’s nearly the foregone conclusion Allard seems to think it is.

Well, to start, Redden will be asking for a ton of money, based on the aforementioned qualifiers and also on the fact that the entire Western hemisphere seems to be in love with this guy.

Again, a horrible assumption to make. I’m sure Muckler is more aware of what kind of money Redden is looking for, based on the preliminary decisions they’ve had, so he has a better idea than most as to what it will cost, but I can’t see it being that much.

Tomas Kaberle got $4.25 from the Maple Leafs over the weekend. I would make the case that Redden is a superior defenceman to Kaberle overall (though I do feel like Kaberle is pretty underrated), however, their importance to their individual team, which should be a factor in deciding how much money to pay out, is similar. I imagine Redden will get more, because it seems as if around the league he’s more highly thought of, but I can’t see it being a whole lot more.

And the reason why Kaberle got so much was because they were able to lock him in for five years. The more years, the more you have to pay. Common sense.

There’s no rule saying Ottawa has to be pursuing such a lengthy contract with either Redden or Chara. It would be ideal, sure, but because money will be so tight, it might be best to take a shorter commitment if it means less money.

But based on the fact that, after nearly 9 years in the league, he still gives up the puck much too frequently and that he seems to lose far too many battles in the corners or has difficulty moving away bigger and stronger forwards in front of the net, I say that his stock is currently overrated.

Ah, now we’re getting to the meat of the piece. Allard doesn’t like Wade Redden all that much. Strangely enough, he’s not alone in this city. Listen to any post-game show on the local all sports radio station and you’ll be sure to hear a gang of people will this exact point. Unfortunately, most of them also sound quite inebriated and usually say something about “needing to get tougher!!!!!” Meaning, you have to take what they say with just a tad of cynicism.

There was absolutely a point in his career when Redden turned the puck over a lot, but when I hear people use that point to criticize him, I usually make a mental note to take them off my “credible hockey people” list, because it’s just not nearly the problem it used to be, and frankly, not much of one at all.

Now, could he be more aggressive and strong on the puck? Sure. But that’s not his game. I don’t feel as though he’s a liability, and when someone brings all the things to the table that he does, you have to accept that there will be some downside.

And those things he brings to said table are plenty. For one, his outlet passing skill is second to none in the league. I can’t think of another defenceman better at it, and with the red line no longer being a factor, this skill will only become more useful as the years go on.

As well, Redden’s a powerplay horse. I realize, with their recent PP struggles, it’s not a timely argument to make, but why don’t you pop in a tape of how the powerplay looked when he was out of the line-up for insight into how essential he is. If you think this recent stretch is bad, prepare to lose your lunch.

While Redden is superior to Chara when it comes to offensive prowess, the Big Z is far more solid on defense than “Reds” and so if the Senators have to decide on one of those two rearguards, it should logically follow that they should base their decision more on the defensive ability of the two potential free agents.

If you were to ask me, tomorrow, which one I would chose assuming they came at the same price tag, I’d take Chara. As important as Redden is to this team’s success, I think Chara’s role is even greater.

But again, why is it assumed both cannot be brought back? Does J.P. know something we all don’t to be working under this profound assumption? If so, he sure doesn’t say what it is anywhere in this piece.

And let’s be real: if we are going to chose, price will be a factor. If J.P. is so convinced that Redden will get a ton of cake thrown at him by other teams, then surely Chara will get more, as he concedes he’s a superior player.

So let’s purpose a hypothetical situation: Redden costs $5 million and Chara costs $6.5. Is Chara so much better, so much more important, that he’s worth $1.5 million more?

Don’t kid yourself into thinking this won’t play a role in this situation. If you keep Redden, you can spend that $1.5 million elsewhere.

I’m not suggesting that that is the correct route to take, because I’m not convinced it is and frankly it’s not one I’ve given enough thought to (because, again, I’m still hopeful both will be back), but it’s worth looking at.

When people talk about the Marian Hossa-Dany Heatley trade, their salaries have to be brought up. Because for the price of Hossa, the Sens get Heatley and Mike Fisher. Which would you rather have?

Besides, the Senators have the luxury of having rookie Andrej Meszaros in their lineup, a Redden clone who is actually years ahead of the Sens’ assistant captain

I sure hope J.P. meant his development is “years ahead” of where Redden was during his rookie season, and not that he thinks Meszaros is a better player.

You’re not going to find a bigger Meszaros fan than I. I think he’s a phenom, and at barely 20-years-old, his play has been the welcome surprise of the season.

But to expect him to do what Redden does for this team is playing a mighty large weight on his shoulders.

While he has looked good when forced to play a larger role and log more minutes, that was only short term. The truth is one of the reasons Meszaros is so good is because he’s our 5th defenceman. He’s too good for that spot. But good enough for #2 at this point?

If not, then “A-Train” Volchenkov will gladly accept more responsibilities.

I’m all for an increased role for Volchenkov. I think he’s highly underrated and probably been their best rearguard over the last month.

However, the question still remains, can he do what Redden does? No.

Their games are so different that to suggest so is, frankly, displaying immense ignorance to this team because I can’t see how anyone who follows them closely could think he could.

Volchenkov’s offensive skills haven’t been utilized to the extent that they can be, and a part of that is because he’s lined up with a more offensive minded guy and thus he has to be the defensive conscience, but I’ve seen no addition his skills are anywhere close to Redden’s in that regard.

With Redden’s stock currently being as high as never before, it would be the perfect time to move him.

Is his stock really higher than it’s ever been? I sure don’t think so. That time was probably over the most recent summer. Now, because of his impending UFA status, team will be fearful that they’re only getting him for a few months.

Unless a club can sign him to a new deal, and based on the fact that Ottawa, where he allegedly wants to stay, cannot, I’d find it hard to believe that someone else could get ink on a new deal.

So what, really, would we would looking at getting back? If Doug Weight commanded what he did, then would Redden go for much more? A high 1st round pick in a draft widely considered to be subpar, a few depth players that aren’t even good enough to make the current Sens roster, and some prospects that may or may not pan out?

As Branch Rickey used to say, it is always better to trade a player one year too early than one year too late.

And as I say, this is ridiculous.

The bottom line is this: this season, however rocky the last month or so has been, is the Ottawa Senators’ best chance to win the Stanley Cup yet. I absolutely believe that. So having come to that conclusion, it makes zero sense to remove one of the team’s best, most important players before you’re hopefully about to make your big run unless you’re getting back something of equal or better value.

Trading Redden for the sake of it would mess with this team’s chemistry a whole lot, and not in the good “shake things up” way either.

In this new salary cap era, where keeping teams together for extended periods of time seems pretty unlikely, trading Wade Redden now would be the dumbest thing the Ottawa Senators have ever done.


At 1:48 PM, Anonymous SensGuy said...

First, I'll say that I think the Sens will have Chara as their #1 priority this summer over Redden. He's such a unique player that it would be a shame to lose him. I think Redden will walk as a UFA and Chara will be resigned.

That would, of course, mean bigger responsibilities for Volchenkov and Meszaros, and I'm all for that. Volchenkov has untapped offensive ability that he hasn't been able to show since he's told to stay at home. Meszaros has the offensive ability, but he's still very young, so it would be a matter of whether the Sens want to put that much pressure on him.

Even if we lose one of Redden or Chara, the Top 4 would still be great. Phillips can be a #2 defenseman, I definately think Volchenkov can be a #3, and Meszaros could step right into the #4 spot.

As for Spezza, I think the Sens should go to him with a 2 year contract offer for $3M a year. He hasn't shown enough consistency this year and his inabliity to adjust his game is really frustrating. He'll be back, but the Sens will not overpay to do it.

At 2:34 PM, Anonymous pete said...

Considering that it's going to cost the Leafs around 10 million to keep McCabe and Kaberle, what do you think it'll cost to keep Redden and CPT (Chara plain and tall, as I know him) in Ottawa?

I think at the least it's 11 million. Maybe 12. Maybe more.

Knowing that Melnyk is not going to spend to the cap (which I'm sure will be the subject of a future rant) how much are those two worth to you and your team? 25% of the payroll? 30%? Or more? Because at those numbers you're getting up there.

I say you play out the stretch with those two horses. In the offseason, offer them each 5.5 or 6 mil. First one to sign elsewhere, you bump the other's offer to 6.5 or 7, and you spend the 5 mil you saved elsewhere.

At 4:39 PM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...


My guesstimates are about $11 million. In the post, I said $5 mil for Redden and $6.5 for Chara seems likely.

Redden might take that as a slight, however, seeing as how he has more tenure.

Boy do I just wish Marian Hossa would've taken that "all three get paid the same" deal, because, financially, this team would look a whole lot different, and for the better, I think.

At 6:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It should be noted that Kaberle got a No Trade Claus, which would lower his salary...

At 8:48 PM, Anonymous SensGuy said...

I don't buy the 'all three take the same deal' thing with Chara, Redden, and Hossa. If it was true, why haven't Chara or Redden signed yet?

Seeing as how Melnyk has said they will stick to the budget, I don't expect both back next year. If they both do come back, consider Havlat and Phillips gone.

At 4:36 AM, Blogger Senator said...

Always when I read J.P. Allard’s blog I laugh aloud. Maybe from Poland NHL and Ottawa Senators looks different than in Canada. Despite a good job form J.P. I almost always disagree with him. Trading Redden now? Nonsense.

At 4:49 AM, Blogger Senator said...

One more thing... IHMO Sens will be simply to sign Redden. Chara? I think he will be asking a lot of money. 6,5 like write Chris. Maybe leaguge's maximum...

At 9:25 AM, Anonymous David Johnson said...

There is the possibility that some other team will tender him an offer sheet (though those seem to have gone the way of the dinosaur). If they do, then you think about matching it, however, if it’s a deal that will handicap the Sens significantly down the road financially, it might be worthwhile to think about taking the five 1st round draft picks.

There are two problems with what you wrote.

1. Ottawa may not be able to match it if it put them over the cap.

2. The compensation would not be 5 first round picks. $3-4 million it is a first, second and a third. $4-5 million it is two firsts, a second and a third.

So, let's say someone offered Spezza $4.99 million per year for 5 years. After signing Redden and Chara, would the Senators have the cap space to match even if they wanted? Would they want to? Is 2 firsts, a second and a third enough worth letting him go?

Tomas Kaberle got $4.25 from the Maple Leafs over the weekend. I would make the case that Redden is a superior defenceman to Kaberle overall (though I do feel like Kaberle is pretty underrated), however, their importance to their individual team, which should be a factor in deciding how much money to pay out, is similar.

Importance to the team may be a factor in what the team is willing to pay, but not in what the player is willing to accept. Redden will get lots of offers to go elsewhere so if Ottawa wants to keep him they will have to pay up. Maybe Redden will take a bit less to remain in Ottawa but I suspect that would still easily put him in the $4.5-5 million per year range for likely no less than 3 years.

I think Chara is the better defenseman and more important for Ottawa to keep. Chara adds a unique element to the game that no other defenseman (save maybe for Pronger) provides. That is massive size and physical dominance combined with skill. Losing Chara would be the loss of one of the Senators few physical players capable of playing a regular shift. But Chara is also important to the Senators for another reason. I think he is much more of a leader than Redden or maybe anyone else on the team. We should not underestimate Chara's influence on Meszaros and how much he has helped him in his breakthrough rookie season. I recall an interview in which Meszaros called Chara the leader of the team (not just the defense) and that he has been a great help in his adjustment to the NHL. Chara is unquestionably the leader and the stabalizing influence on the Senators defense and losing him would be huge. He also plays more minutes than Redden.

In the end I would much rather have Chara, Meszaros, Phillips and Volchenkov as my top 4 defense than Redden, Meszaros, Phillips and Volchenkov.

At 9:33 AM, Anonymous David Johnson said...

I don't buy the 'all three take the same deal' thing with Chara, Redden, and Hossa. If it was true, why haven't Chara or Redden signed yet?

I think it was more like all three take the same as Alfredsson ($4.5 million) deal. I don't think the Senators wanted to pay anyone more than Alfredsson who the consider their best player.

Also, I forgot to mention that Hasek is also a UFA. If he returns what will he cost? If he retires, how much will it cost to sign another capable goalie (Emery isn't ready yet). In both cases it will probably cost more than what Hasek is currently making.

When it comes down to it, this is the year the Sens have to take a run at the cup as this team won't be able to be kept in tact next year and beyond. If Chara and Redden sign, maybe Phillips has to go. If Spezza signs a big contract, Smolinksi is almost sure to go. Havlat might also need to be traded and Hasek might retire.


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