Thursday, August 16, 2007

Senators July Report

Well, July has come and gone, so let's take a look at how new General Manager did in his first full month on the job.

Topics to be discussed:

1. The Ray Emery contract
2. The Wade Redden non-trade
3. The Peter Schaefer trade
4. The Oleg Saprykin non-offer
5. The coaching change

1. The Ray Emery Contract
Simply put, this is a necessary signing that gives the team the stability it needs. Had we run into talks of offer sheets or even walking away from arbitration awards, it is hard to say how Murray would have felt going into the season with Gerber. Ray Emery isn't flawless, but he's a young goalie that has now put a lot of experience under his belt in his two years. And keep in mind that playing a post-season in a hockey market like Ottawa provides far more lessons and experience than a post-season in Anaheim or Carolina or other less-interested cities. If Emery didn't crack in his first two seasons, I think it is safe to say that he truly can be the goaltender of the future for the Sens. Getting him under a contract that makes him the 3rd highest paid goalie in Ontario and 18th highest paid in the league is dreamy given that he took his team to the Finals. This also gives Murray the opportunity to move Gerber whenever he finds a taker. He said up until the signing that he wouldn't do anything with Gerber until Emery was under contract, strictly because of the fear of giving Ray too much leverage.

Now that the contract is done and he's here for three years, Murray will have his eye on the street and wait for a goalie to go down. It is beyond me, though, why we can't find a trading partner in LA or Phoenix, though I guess those teams just don't want a 32-year old that just came off a tough season and makes $3.7M. If Murray can't move him before October, I can't see him being a deadline move just to make sure we can have two competent goalies going into the playoffs. 8 weeks to move him now, or we keep him for a second season, in my opinion.

2. The Wade Redden non-trade
This is the big one, folks. I'm no mathmetician, but luckily it doesn't take a genius to figure out that Redden doesn't figure into the plans of the Senators after this season. On the ice, he was essentially relegated to #3 defenceman behind the shutdown pair of Phillips and Volchenkov. Off the ice, his money will be basically used up in its entirety on extending Heatley ($4.5M will likely become $7.5M), Spezza ($4.5M will become at least $6.5M), and Fisher ($1.5M will be at least $3M). Oh snap, those raises work out to exactly $6.5M! It puts Murray in a really tough situation because you can't move your highest paid player at the deadline going into the playoffs, but you hate to let him walk away for nothing next summer. In going public with having a trade in place for Redden last month at the draft, Murray reiterated where #6 stands on this team. In other words, we'd love to move him and get a scoring winger and a mid-level defenceman, much like what Philadelphia got in Lupul and Smith for Pitkanen. Can we assume that this is the same offer Murray was going to make with Redden?

I think in going public with the non-trade, Murray basically puts the spotlight on Redden both for the rest of the summer and into the season. I have to believe that Murray is still putting his name out there and will simply ask Redden AGAIN to waive the no-trade clause. If you're asked twice to leave, do you get the hint that you don't fit in? On the other hand, if you are Redden's agent, you are insisting that your client STAY in Ottawa at all costs. He is in a contract year and is playing in a high profile market on a guaranteed playoff team. Where else can you prove that you are worth $6.5M in next summer's market? As beneficial as it would be to us to move him out for two players back, I think he'll be back on the blue line in October. The silver lining in all of this is that there is no way that he can be as bad as last season.

3. The Peter Schaefer trade
This was my midsummer night's dream. I never liked Peter Schaefer so it is hard to look at this one objectively. I see the value in him as a penalty killer and I dont' think $2M for him in today's market is completely unreasonable. But he was such a lollygagger last year and he brings so little offence to the second line, that you are just better off giving the icetime to Vermette and finding a grinder to take Schaefer's spot on a third line. Or in Donovan's case, the fourth line. We saved a lot of money and instead of having a guy that is here for three more years, Murray has a guy that comes up for contract next year. The hidden gem there is that Murray has the money to sign his stars first and then can see if Donovan still fits into the plans. He never had that luxury with Schaefer, who was on the books and taking up much-needed cap space.

4. The Oleg Saprykin Deal
The story seems to be that Muckler qualified him before getting fired, and Murray basically asked Saprykin's agent to tell his client nto to sign it. It is great that this was so cordial and now Oleg is off to Europe and we have the $1M+ in money to spend elsewhere. Saprykin was solid in his play and was absolutely worth the second round pick just for that game winner he scored in Buffalo in Game One. That being said, it is tough to pay over a million dollars for a guy that is almost a lock to be on the fourth line. Better to have McAmmond at $900K, who can play on any line, can kill penalties, and can grind if needed (even if he's not that big). Good move on Murray to save the money - we'll need it next summer.

5. The coaching change
Not much to discuss here, except that Paddock was the right choice to take over. We can all look at Pat Burns, Pat Quinn, all those other big name guys, etc. But with Paddock, you get a guy that knows the players and knows the system we play. As a team that just played in the Finals, we don't need to be changing our style and learning a new system. We just need to tweak it a bit, add some Murray-type players that have more size and sandpaper (see Donavan for Schaefer), and we'll be fine. Murray is still in the picture and if he wants John Paddock to coach this team, I think he has earned our trust.

All in all, a pretty breezy summer for Murray. His challenge now is to get straight into extension talks with Heatley, Spezza, and Fisher. If there is one thing we've learned from Buffalo's experience this year, it is that when a player says that they want to talk, we listen. Stories are abound that Drury would have signed at $5M a year last summer but the Sabres didn't want to talk until now. Oops. I hope Murray at least opens the dialogue with all three and we get an idea of their desired number. If we can extend them before June 2008, then that whole "the window is closing" pressure disappears and we can just play. What are your thoughts on the Sens summer thus far?

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