Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Senators GMs stick to their guns

An article on Bleacher Report brought up the ongoing trend of Ottawa Senators owners and general managers facing players whose contract demands are overzealous, sticking to their guns, and eventually forcing those players to fall in line or get traded.

The article mentions, of course, the recently-traded Andrej Meszaros and goes back to include Alexei Yashin, Zdeno Chara, and Martin Havlat on the list of Senators players whose salary demands didn't fit into the Senators' payroll structure. (Not included was Marian Hossa, whose sign-and-trade departure could rightfully have fallen under the criteria, but may have just been an oversight).

Although the article was a little overzealous at times--making contentions about some of the traded players that are either unfair or unfounded (including statements that all the Sens lost in Meszaros was "inconsistency, give aways [stet], and inaccurate shooting", that Chara "let Jason Pominville skate around him, Wade Redden, and Daniel Alfredsson to eventually score the series winning goal for Buffalo in the 2006 Eastern Semi-finals" and also that Chara openly questioned Alfredsson's leadership [which I don't remember happening directly])--the story brings up an interesting trend in modern Senators history.

What may be most interesting is the fact that these instances span over several general managers, and both owners the team has ever had. Meszaros was traded by current GM Bryan Murray, Havlat and Hossa were traded during the tenure of John Muckler, and Yashin was traded by Marshall Johnston in 2001. The first three listed were traded during the ownership of Eugene Melnyk, and the Yashin Saga was with former owner Rod Bryden. It is interesting in an era of overpaying for so many free agents, whether restricted or unrestricted, the Senators have managed to operate with relative frugality and responsibility in the face of so many apparent arms-races.

Murray today said that part of his reasoning in trading Meszaros, rather than allowing him to be (potentially, if Tampa Bay could acquire that elusive third-round pick) scooped up via a free-agent offer sheet for $5M a year, was to avoid further salary inflation among young defencemen (see a story in the Ottawa Citizen about his remarks here). Not to suggest the trade was a hugely Mother Theresa-like sacrifice for the Sens to make, but that kind of long-term thinking seems to be all but lost in today's NHL.
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