Friday, 29 August 2008

Someone Passes To Someone

Way back in 1992, two fledgling expansion franchises joined the NHL as Ottawa and Tampa Bay were granted membership into the NHL. Both teams assembled a group of players who were unknowns or past their primes, and sprinkled in a few young stars from the NHL draft. Today, it appears that history has come full circle as Ottawa and Tampa Bay have assembled a group of aging stars and some unknown players while sprinkling in a few stars from past NHL drafts. While Tampa Bay went back to its roots in signing free agents and acquiring players past their primes, the Ottawa Senators are making questionable trades and building from within. Today's most recent trade only solidifies this premise.

The Tampa Bay Lightning and Ottawa Senators agreed on a trade that sends disgruntled defenceman and restricted free agent Andrej Meszaros to the Lightning in exchange for defencemen Filip Kuba, Alexandre Picard, and San Jose's 2009 first-round draft pick. The salary squabble that the Senators and Meszaros were engaged in ends with the 22 year-old packing his bags for the Sunshine State.

According to sources, Meszaros has agreed to sign a six-year deal with Tampa Bay worth $4 million per season. I find this odd that Meszaros would sign for $4 million when he was pushing the Senators for $4.5 million per season. Ottawa's offer was reportedly worth $3.5 million per season, and I really doubt that the Senators couldn't cough up the extra $500,000 to keep their most reliable defenceman in town. However, where Ottawa failed, Tampa Bay will benefit.

Here's where I find this trade to be somewhat laughable on both sides of the ledger.

Ottawa has now let go or dealt away the majority of their blueline from last season. Gone are Meszaros, Mike Commodore, Wade Redden, Luke Richardson, and Joe Corvo, leaving just Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov patrolling the defensive zone for the Senators as confirmed roster players. Christoph Schubert is basically a roster player by default, and both Kuba and Picard will most likely start the season with Ottawa as well. Ottawa signed free agent Jason Smith this off-season, so Ottawa's six defencemen will be as follows: Phillips, Volchenkov, Smith, Kuba, Picard, Schubert. Not bad, but certainly not intimidating by any means.

Lawrence Nycholat, Brian Lee, and Brendan Bell will challenge for a roster spot, but this group seems less talented than last year's group, and certainly has taken a hit in the offensive defenceman category. For a team that struggled so mightily in scoring goals last season at times, trading a decent offensive player for two insignificant players seems ridiculous, especially when you consider that $500,000 was the break even point between the two sides.

On the opposite side of the coin comes the Tampa Bay Lightning. For a team that wanted to cut salaries this season, that mandate has completely fallen by the wayside as they continue to restock their locker room with high-priced talent. Joining Meszaros as a new face are Gary Roberts, Ryan Malone, Adam Hall, Vaclav Prospal, Mark Recchi, Radim Vrbata, and Olaf Kolzig. Matt Carle was acquired in the Dan Boyle trade and Steven Stamkos was drafted this season, so there's a couple of new kids too. That's ten players on a 22-man roster who have been brought in this off-season to help the Lightning make their way back to the promised land. And most were brought in under bloated salaries.

Look, I understand that owners Koules and Barrie want the Lightning to be competitive this season. They've gone out and bought everyone that they could, and traded away anyone who didn't fit into their plans. However, this "expansion team mentality" of signing aging stars and never-made-it youngsters is completely insane. Nearly half of the Lightning's roster is brand-new to the Bay Area, and they have a new head coach who hasn't been behind a bench in over a decade!

Welcome back to 1992, everyone. The Senators look worse than last season, and Tampa Bay is hoping that a number of players can turn back the clocks. It reminds me of Jamie Baker, Bob Kudelski, and Sylvain Turgeon in Ottawa, while Tampa Bay tries to restart the careers of some aging players like they once did for Brian Bradley, Chris Kontos, and John Tucker.

The only difference is that Ottawa is younger now than they were in their expansion season, while Tampa Bay is much, much older than their first season. Ottawa went 10-70-4 that season, finishing last in the Adams Division. Tampa Bay went 23-54-7, and finished last in the Norris Division. While I doubt that they'll end their seasons close to those abysmal records, don't be surprised if they linger near the bottom of the standings in their respective divisions once again.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


Jeff E. said...

Not that it's that big of deal, but I think TSN got the wrong Picard in their article. Alexandre Picard is a winger in the Blue Jackets' system (Syracuse).

Teebz said...

Not quite. There is a Picard that plays for Syracuse, but Alexandre R. Picard is the man in the trade. :o)

Jeff E. said...

Aaaah, well you learn something new every day, though the hyperlink for Alexandre Picard in the TSN article takes you to the stat sheet for the Picard I was referring to. I guess that's what confused me.