Monday, July 2, 2012

Sens Tread Water On UFA Day ... Methot Deal Looks Like A Winner

As July 1st rolled along into the afternoon, the Ottawa Senators began bleeding free agents, losing role players like Zenon Konopka (Minnesota), Matt Carkner (Long Island) and Filip Kuba (Florida) to big money deals that they couldn't or wouldn't match.

Coming back in much cheaper UFA deals were a couple of injury plagued, hard luck stories in winger Guillaume Latendresse and defenseman Mike Lundin.

The biggest deal of the day for the Senators was the trade of popular but inconsistent winger Nick Foligno for hard-hitting defensive defensman Marc Methot of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

All in all, it was a fairly cheap but exciting day at the shopping mall for Bryan Murray, but did the Ottawa Senators get any better?

No, they didn't. In fact, they got worse. Not terminably worse, but they lost a lot of character and toughness and only brought in one player - Methot - to balance out their losses in that area.

It's not all bad news, and depending on how you view the game, you may think the Senators vastly improved on July 1st just by subtraction alone.

Konopka didn't seem to hurt much because of the glut of young forward the Senators have. He was a rock in the playoffs with his faceoff ability and a willing fighter all season long, but he'll be more missed by reporters looking for a good quote and likely in the dressing room than he will be on the ice.

Filip Kuba was already a goner the second the Senators fell to the Rangers in the first round and the fact that he received 8 million over two years in Florida likely justifies the Senators moving on quickly. Kuba was never a fan favourite but he did have chemistry with Erik Karlsson and was a quiet contributor to the young Swede's Norris Trophy win in June.

Carkner leaving town hurt a little bit. The local boy who made good was strangely low-balled by the Senators with a one-year offer, basically pushing him into the marketplace where he got a surprising 3 yeard deal with the Islanders that had every one-note sarcastic blogger and tweeter in an uproar. I say good for Carkner. He deserves a break after fighting his whole professional career to make it to the big leagues. That deal sets his family up for a long time and gives him a place to play where he'll be properly appreciated.

Other than money, it's hard to think of what turned the Senators off of the popular defenseman. Maybe it was his knee - you'd have to think it was - because it's hard to believe the Murray's would turn their back on a player who they not only raised from the ashes of the AHL but who seemed to be a pivotal personality on the team. It's not a stretch to belive that Carkner would have singned a two-year deal for a paltry 1-1.5 million before he hit the open market. Instead the Islanders, who always have to overpay for free-agents to sign with their team, blew the market for Carkner wide open with a contract that Ottawa would never agree to.

I'm not saying Ottawa should have given Carkner 3 years at that price. But I'm saying Ottawa should have at least offered a reasonable 2 year deal for a defenseman that has always provided value well above his pedigree. Chances are the hometown boy would have jumped at a two-year deal and never looked back. Coulda, shoulda, woulda... it's history now. Losing Carkner won't derail the Senators rebuild. But it doesn't feel right all the same.

But let's look at the good news here, because Bryan Murray just didn't doze through the first day of free-agency.

The Good: Trading Foligno to Columbus for Marc Methot.

Doing a little research on the 27 year old defenseman, most people seem to agree Methot was an underrated player on a very bad team. He doesn't score goals or play the power-play like the departed Kuba, but he's dependable, large at 6'3" 227 pounds, and is known for a few devastating hip-checks he delivered to guys like Patrick Kane and Kris Versteeg. He's a better skater than Carkner, plus he's a local kid which brings a certain kind of marketing appeal for the suits at the Kanata rink.

Methot will likely be the 4th or 5th defenseman, either playing with Karlsson or on the last defensive pair with someone like Mark Borowiecki or the newly acquired Lundin. The fact that Methot is signed for three more seasons is a nice bonus as well, considering that Foligno needed a new deal.

Having to trade Foligno was a shock to some but if you'd been watching, you could have seen something like this coming a mile away. Foligno never truly found a role on the Senators and despite having good stats this past season, he was still shuffled around from line to line, often ending up on the fourth unit and being a spare part. It just never happened for Foligno and it wasn't surprising to see him part of a package to strengthen their weakened back end. There are just too many forward prospects in the organization and not enough defenseman. Someone had to be dealt and why not a player who clearly needs a fresh start? Foligno fit the bill perfectly and now Latendresse, Mark Stone, Mika Zibanejad or Jakob Silfverberg will get their chance to be a top-six winger.

The So-So: Signing Mike Lundin. He's cheap at 1 year. He's got some size and skating ability, but there doesn't seem to be any pizzaz there either on the ice or off. Team 1200 personality Shawn Simpson described Lundin in a nasty little tweet: "Lundin can give quality minutes. Smart D zone coverage. Ok size. No offense. Works hard, not hard. Zero personality." Whatever. Lundin doesn't need to be a clown juggling bowling pins for him to be an assett to this team. He just needs to be healthy and consistent, something he hasn't really been able to do in his NHL career so far.

The Bad/Ugly: Signing Guillaume Latendresse.

Okay, I don't really mean Ugly, but it fit with the theme, you know? Latendresse was called out by the Wild for being lazy and showing up to camp out of shape. He has some major injury issues, including a recent concussion. Right away the caution flags go up. But Murray didn't give away the farm for the troubled winger. The Wild chose not to give Latendresse a qualifying offer and Murray scooped him up for a one year, 1.2 million deal that's a big drop from his salary as a member of the Wild.

It's a risk that could pay off if Latendresse can recapture that magic he had as a rookie with the Habs and during his first spate of games in Minnesota where he was rifling pucks into the net every other night. He also needs to show up at camp like a brick shithouse to quiet any doubts about his fitness level. I'm guessing he does that seeing that this could be his last chance before finding himself a journeyman.

It was a long day for the Senators but not necessarily a great one. I really like the Methot deal and will watch like the rest of you how Latendresse and Lundin turn out.

One thing for sure is that Ottawa may be a little less fun to watch in the meantime. Guys like Carkner and Konopka provided a certain kind of entertainment and personality that made last year's team so likeable, even to outsiders. When Carkner pummelled Brian Boyle of the Rangers in retaliation for Karlsson getting his head caved in, the entire Senators team seemed to come together and would have won that series had it not been for a few unlucky bounces in Game 7.

Life goes on and that's the business of hockey. But those kinds of players give the fans and the team something that the stats could never really explain. The so called "intangibles" that moneyball stat-nerds can't seem to comprehend for the life of them.


danny said...

This isnt really a moneyball/stat thing, its just a "these guys cant really play and are replaceable" thing. If Zack Smith or chris neil get tapped on the shoulder by Mclean instead of carkner, is there any reason why they cant do what he did? On the other hand, those guys can actually stay in the lineup. I appreciate what they did during the playoffs, but there are always several players with similar skillsets availible around on trade deadline day on expiring contracts if your team needs them.

Anonymous said...

Zack Smith isn't big enough, strong enough, or mean enough to lay a memorable beatdown on someone.

Nothing against Zack Smith, he's a relatively tough guy and a better hockey player then Carkner.

But Carks can go toe-to-toe with anyone in the league.

Neil is a respected middleweight, and mean as hell, but when was the last time he fractured someone's orbital bone?

Anonymous said...

I don't blame Carkner at all for taking the money and term since it will probably be the last contract he earns. I'm sad to see him go and agree that Ottawa should have offered him a 2 year deal. He would have definitely stayed here if that was offered.

I'm okay with the Foligno deal but I feel like the Murrays could have got a little bit more coming back, at least Methot and a pick would have felt better than just Methot for Foligno straight up.

Hopefully the chemistry of the room can stay intact and Latendresse shows up healthy and fit.

Cheers, and Happy Canada Day!

danny said...

It was Boyle, he doesnt even fight. We arent talking about cam jansen here, those guys only play if you give the other team a reason to play them (like in carkner's situation). In the playoffs the players who do that kind of stuff to karlsson arent enforcers they are defensive players with pest-like qualities like Boyle. Any player who can win a fight against Zack smith or chris neil won't ever be on the ice at the same time as karlsson.

hambown said...

>Zack Smith isn't big enough, strong enough, or mean enough to lay a memorable beatdown on someone.

I don't think you know Zack Smith. Here, he takes two solid rights from Kendal Mcardle before rising again and pummeling himP:

Next, he takes on Jared Tinordi, giving up a lot of height & weight, scoring a draw:

Not going to lay a memorable beatdown on someone? See video 1. The Sens have no shortage of guys that can hold their own as well as play.

Look, I think Carkner did a great job of turning the series around by pummeling Boyle in game 2, and wish him all the best on Long Island. He'll play regular 5-6 minutes there, and good on him, he deserves it. God knows, the Isles locker room could do with the levity he'll bring. However, for the Sens, he could not stay healthy enough to make a difference over the season, his skating is marginal for a pro. His stats show declining minutes per game over the past three seasons, increasingly against weaker opposition. With Methot and Lundin, the Sens will allow fewer goals against, and have fewer defensemen in the box for fighting. Smart, if bland, moves by Murray.

Anonymous said...

Carkner and Konopka's intangibles won us one playoff game. One. That's game two when Carkner lost it and went after Boyle. Carkner has a pinball bank shot against the Penguins to his credit too, whoop dee doo.

We have Carkners and Konopkas in ranks and we should not be paying anything more than league minimum, plus or minus a few hundred thousand, for thse kinds of players.

Very iffy on Foligno. We may have forward prospects on the ups but how many have that agitating, shit-disturber, crease-crowding mentality that Foligno relished? Methot has a ton to prove...I'll go ahead and say I'll be booing Latendresse, Lundin and Methot at the earliest opportunity if their games are not near perfect.

Why trade/sign when you can build from within? Strange day for the Senators..

Anonymous said...

Oh, also concerning Konopka, isn't the NHL instituting a rule where you can't use your hand to move the puck on faceoffs?

Both players facing-off are prohibited from batting the puck with their hand in an attempt to win the face-off. Any attempt by either center to win the face-off by batting the puck with their hand shall result in a minor penalty. This penalty shall be announced as a "Minor Penalty for Delay of Game - Face-off Violation." Once the face-off is deemed complete (and winner of the face-off is clear), hand passes shall be enforced as per Rule 79.

Let's see Konopka's faceoff stats next year...

Anonymous said...

"I'll go ahead and say I'll be booing Latendresse, Lundin and Methot at the earliest opportunity if their games are not near perfect."

Hey! Congratulations! You'll be the biggest douche in the arena! Maybe you'll be featured on the jumbotron.

labru said...

Booing your own players can also come to early. I remember two of our defensemen at the beginning of last season... If that's what you're trying to accomplish, go ahead!

You saying that Methot is a 4/5 D and will probably play with Karlsson (I'm down with that if he proves to be able) or BoroCop/Lundin as a last pairing. That thought scares me a bit. Because that would probably mean Philips having to play with Gonchar, I'm not too sure about that one. On the other hand, if Cowen is going to be the best fit for Karlsson, the Paulrus might have to. Exciting choices are awaiting.

Peter Raaymakers said...

Here's what I think happened with Carkner:

The Sens told him that they had some balls in play around the league (Lundin, Methot) and weren't ready to sign him yet. They made him an offer expecting him to reject it, but also told him to look out there on the market for his best offer and that they'd love the opportunity to match any deal he was offered out there. So he came to terms with the Islanders, and the Sens couldn't justify the price, so they wished him well. Maybe that's not what happened, but it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest.

Still, I don't think the losses of Konopka and Carkner will impede us too much in the toughness department. Most of Konopka's fights last season were meaningless staged fights. Carkner was gone for most of last season, anyway. Borowiecki won't become a heavyweight like Carkner, certainly, but he can drop 'em too; he had 11 fights in the AHL last year.

As for Latendresse, it's a no-lose situation, and we've brought in a guy who--based on his comments, anyway--is excited to have an opportunity to prove himself, and even more excited that the opportunity's in Ottawa. I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do.