Now that the Ottawa Senators have signed Jason Spezza to a long-term deal to effectively lock up the core of their team for the long-term future, it’s time for them now to do something bold.
Hot off their first appearance in the Stanley Cup final, the Senators have by now realized that the very real prospect of a Stanley Cup is in their future; if not this spring, then sometime in the foreseeable future.
They’ve been the class of the league in putting together an 11-1-0 start and have left no impression they intend on taking any steps backward after coming so close to winning the Cup last year. They are formidable at every position, have lethal quick-strike ability and boast the most sublime level of talent on the planet.
Of course, GM Bryan Murray could stick with the team he has and hope that the likes of Spezza, Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson learned something from their failure in the Cup final last year and will be the better for it when the most meaningful games roll around this spring.
But Murray, like a number of other executives, is making noise about acquiring Peter Forsberg, the only perennially injured, non-playing player in NHL history who appears to be getting better the longer he sits out.
The way a lot of people see it, the Senators became easy to beat once the Anaheim Ducks were able to shut down their top line and adding Forsberg to the mix would give the Senators two scoring lines with Spezza and Heatley anchoring one and Forsberg and Alfredsson the other.
It’s an interesting thought, but if the Senators want to add Forsberg, depending on what point in the season he comes on board, they’re likely going to have to dump payroll in the form of defenseman Wade Redden or goalie Martin Gerber.
Forsberg will almost certainly want a multi-year deal, despite the fact he has done nothing in the recent past to merit it or prove that he can be counted upon to be healthy enough to contribute on a consistent basis.
But, if that’s what the Senators want, they’re going to have to be bold about it and either go all in or not at all. If they’re intent on giving Forsberg what he wants, they may have to convince Redden to accept a trade or threaten to send him to the minors. It would be a terrible thing to do to a veteran player who has served the Senators with such loyalty, but there may be no other way to get Forsberg under contract because the Senators have less than $3 million in cap room left.
Here’s another idea. The Senators should make a bold and concerted pitch to get Mats Sundin. Yes, Mats Sundin, the captain of their hated archrival Toronto Maple Leafs. And before you fall off your chair laughing, consider the following:
* If you had your choice between a broken-down, unreliable Forsberg and a rejuvenated Sundin playing his best hockey in years, which one would you want? In fact, any team that is considering picking up Forsberg at this point must also consider making a pitch for Sundin. The Leafs are still in the playoff picture only because they’ve played more games than anyone else in the Eastern Conference, but it’s not likely to last.
There’s no way Leafs GM John Ferguson would be willing to make a trade for the long-term future with his immediate future in so much doubt. That’s why until the Leafs either fire him or give him a long-term extension, the team’s board of directors should be the ones mandating personnel moves. This is one they should make for the good of the franchise.
* This would be a great deal for both teams if they could only be bold and brave enough to make the deal. The trade would give the Senators everything they’d want in Forsberg and more and it would give Sundin a chance to win a Stanley Cup. Sundin has said in the past that he can’t see himself joining a team at the deadline just for a run at the Cup, which is why the Senators would likely have to offer him a two- or three-year contract extension.
* The Leafs, on the other hand, would finally be able to begin the rebuilding process everyone in the world outside their downtown Toronto office knows they require. Given the fact that Sundin would be coming in to Toronto to beat up on the Leafs on a regular basis, Sundin would exact a high price. The Senators have a number of good prospects and young players, but the guy they should hold out to get is Mike Fisher.
* The Senators would be able to make the trade at the deadline without having to tear apart their roster this season. The trade deadline is Feb. 26 this year and if the Senators were to acquire Sundin that day, they would be responsible for $1.21 million of his $5.5 million salary. If Fisher were to go the other way, the Leafs would have to pay $328,000 of his $1.5 million for this season, meaning the Senators would add a total of just $881,000 to their payroll for this season. It would also give them the wiggle room to pursue Sundin sooner than that if they wanted to get him before the stretch drive.
* And the great thing about Fisher from a Leafs perspective is that he’s just 27 years old and is under contract for the next five seasons at a cap hit of $4.2 million. He’s a Selke Trophy candidate with the Senators, but with a lot of other teams, including the Leafs, he’d be good enough to be the first-line center.
Of course, a lot of people, particularly in Toronto, would be all worked up about the optics of such a deal. Well, optics be damned. This is about winning a Stanley Cup for one team and setting the foundation for a much-needed rebuilding program with another. If Sundin truly wants what’s best for the Leafs, he would understand and so would their fans.
Sure, watching the Senators skate around with the Stanley Cup in June would be difficult for them, but both franchises would be better for it.
Ken Campbell’s Cuts appears Mondays only on thehockeynews.com.
One of THN’s senior writers, Ken Campbell gives you insight and opinion on the world of hockey like no one else. Subscribe to The Hockey News to get Ken’s expertise delivered to you every issue.