Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Leclaire Worth Sacrificing Vermette
It's all over but the crying as the Senators have made their last moves until the trade freeze is lifted after the Stanley Cup final (which the Senators will be watching 2 months into their summer vacations).
Of course the big move was getting young goalie Pascal Leclaire for underachieving forward Antoine Vermette but the biggest mindblow was seeing Martin Gerber being picked up by Brian Burke and the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are coming into Ottawa on Monday, ostensibly with Gerber in the nets.
That game will be the last one worth fighting for. There is no way anyone wants to see Gerber muster up a brilliant game which he is capable of once every two or three years and slam the door on his old team.
But after that surreal night, what's left to ponder?
Like I said in my previous post, I like the Vermette - Leclaire deal.
At just under 4 million, Leclaire is the right goalie at the right price. Bryan Murray could have gotten into a bidding war this summer for either Manny Fernandez or Nikolai Khabibulin but he would have had to pay upwards of 6 million or more for either goaltender and neither of those players have as high an upside as Leclaire does.
The only risk here is Leclaire's injury woes but fans should realize that there was no perfect solution out there for the goaltending position. Nobody is going to give up an elite goalie if they have one so Murray had to take one with a little bit of baggage.
Leclaire has already proven himself as a top tier goalie with 9 shutouts last season and winning a Silver Medal with Canada at last year's World Championships.
And all Murray had to give up was Vermette.
Some have already complained that Vermette should have fetched more but the fact is that Vermette is a career second or third liner with a limited ability to score goals. He is basically a penalty-kill and faceoff specialist and those players aren't half as important as a true number one goalie.
Plus, Vermette is going to be an unrestricted free-agent after next season while Leclaire is signed for the next two in a much more crucial slot.
If you add that valuable second round pick included in the deal, I say Murray walked away the clear winner in this trade. Columbus is desperate to make the playoffs and Vermette helps them do that right now while Steve Mason capably handles the netminding duties. It works for both sides but long term, Ottawa gets the longer straw.
Thankfully, Chris Neil is still a Senator and this ups his chances of re-signing a contract before July 1st.
As we saw last night against a tougher Calgary squad, players like Neil are missed when they are out of the lineup.
It was inspiring to see a player like Jason Spezza step up and fight Dion Phaneuf after Dany Heatley was run over, but you would rather have guys like Neil take care of that stuff.
As a friend said to me today, maybe Murray made a smart move by threatening to trade Neil and then balking at the last minute. Then he can go to Neil's agent and say that Neil isn't as sought after as once thought and maybe he should think about accepting that 1.8 million that is rumoured to be the Senators offer.
Either way, Murray should get Neil under contract before this stretches into silly season.